There's No Place Like CHARLIEWOOD: An Interview Of Cult Hairstylist And Artist Charlie Le Mindu

text by BJ Panda Bear

Charlie Le Mindu recently presented CHARLIEWOOD at the Faena theater during Art Basel Miami, the second performance that debuted in Paris at Palais de Tokyo. The Barrett Barrera Projects produced show was a surreal walk through his vision of abstract sexuality that was anything but binary. With a host like Lady Fag and an opening act by drag terrorist Christeene, it was equal parts queer shocker and electro gold. Watching the performance took the audience’s minds out of anything they had seen, there was no turning back from the master craftsmens vision that was expanded by endless spills of tequila. 

Charlie has long had a history as the go to Haute Coiffure, crafting hair and wigs with in the realm of surreal otherworldliness, this extension of head pieces in motion spoke of a necessary need provide movement and life to the meticulously crafted works of art. Autre got a moment to find out what provoked Charlie’s expanded vision. 

Autre: How did you get involved with this project? How did you create it?

Charlie Le Mindu: I don’t know. No, I’m joking. Basically, with my gallery and my agent, Barrett Barrera. It’s a show I did at Palais de Tokyo and I wanted to make it a traveling show so we decided to do it in New York and in Art Basel.

Autre: How did you conceive the concept initially?

Le Mindu: You know, my inspiration is people like Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, surreal painters and what I wanted to do was bring their paintings alive. You know? So that’s what I tried to do.

Autre: And what was the most technical piece of costuming that you did?

Le Mindu: I guess it’s the last one with the fiber optic. That was intense, yeah.

Autre: Awesome, overall how did you get involved with LadyFag and all that?

Le Mindu: Well it’s people that inspire me so I guess it’s great to work with them always and it was a good opportunity because my gallery asked me if I would want to work with them

Autre: How did the dances come into it?

Le Mindu: I mean some of the dance stuff came from different cabaret in Paris. I’m not allowed to give the names, but one of the good sexy ones in Paris and just I just chose the people for their body and their mentality.

Autre: I think that’s amazing that you used Christeene and you had various body shapes and everything

Le Mindu: Yeah, you know in my performance I tried to show different kinds of beauty and what inspires me.

Autre: Love babes, Thank you!


You can learn more about Charlie Le Mindu here. See photos from CHARLIEWOOD in our daily diary. text and interview by BJ Panda Bear. photograph by Patrick McMullen


Ritualized Catharsis: An Interview of Hyon Gyon

text by Adam Lehrer

South Korean New York-based visual artist and painter Hyon Gyon’s Chinatown studio is hard to miss. Walking down Canal Street past the skateboarders that grind the rails along the bike path at the bottom of the Manhattan side of the Manhattan bridge, the markets that smell ripe of fish and assorted edible sea creatures, and the dizzyingly busy intersection of a diverse population, you finally take a right on Eldridge Street. Quite visibly from the opposite end of the block your eye catches an out-of-place looking two floor building with a massive sign that reads “Hyon Gyon.” The building looks more like a hut or a place of worship than an emerging visual artist’s studio. Considering Gyon’s aesthetic and work, that notion could feel rather deliberate on part of the artist. But talking to Gyon for any length of time quickly dispels that notion. Her studio is just an outgrowth of her practice, and her practice lacks any grand conceptual conceit. She channels energy into her art. What you see is simply what has come out of her.

Inside that studio is a visual world perhaps even more rarified and indicative of Gyon’s work than the locale’s exterior. The first floor is half work space and half gallery displaying several of Gyon’s large-scale and quite spectacular paintings that combine the markings of abstract expressionism and traditional Korean shamanistic imagery alongside Gyon’s scattered work materials. The room is accented by vibrant Korean carpets that cover almost the entirety of the floor. Upstairs, Gyon maintains a sizable collection of art and design books and has been stockpiling an assortments of garments that Gyon has taken to painting, deconstructing, and refashioning. At the center of the artifacts and tasteful junk is Gyon herself: ethereally beautiful, petite, and adorned in a sparkly pink top over a Rolling Stones t-shirt, she abstractly resembles the ideas that flow out of her in her work.

Gyon was attending university when she decided to be an artist professionally. Initially interested in fashion and having even worked at a studio that designed traditional Korean garments, Gyon’s decision to work in the fine arts was catapulted by the death of her grandmother. When Gyon’s grandmother passed, her family took part in a gut (pronounced: “goot”) ritual for her; in these ceremonies, a Korean shaman leads a series of sacrifices, physical gestures and prayers to the gods that theoretically enable a peaceful transition for the human spirit to leave the physical plane and enter into the spiritual plane. But in a more tangibly relatable manner, the gut ritual serves the purpose of allowing the deceased’s loved ones to move on. To purge negativity. To experience catharsis. That ritualized catharsis had a deep impact on Gyon, and she knew then that she had found her subject manner. “It’s hard to describe what happened to me,” says Gyon referring to her catharsis felt during the gut ritual. “Something in me had changed. I knew that I wanted people to experience emotion through my work.”

Gyon focuses on bold paintings and abstract sculptures with textile elements that use the faces and bodies of monstrous characters, or “incarnations” as she calls them, that are emblematic of specific emotions from the wide scale of human feeling. After working and developing her practice in Japan for 13 years, Gyon moved to New York in 2013 on a residency supported by her new dealers at Shin Gallery. The residency first resulted in a pop-up show entitled Hyon Gyon and The Factory that referenced Warhol and saw Gyon producing at truly Warholian (or should we say Herculean?) rates. This year, Shin included Gyon’s work alongside titans like Balthus and Salvador Dali in a group show entitled I Wanna Be Me that used its Sex Pistols aping title to celebrate utterly personal expression in a world of appropriation. But the greatest testament to Gyon’s talents at this juncture was her first eponymous Shin Gallery solo show that ran over the summer. The centerpiece of the show was the sculptural Headpiece that saw Gyon applying oil paints to pillows. Every pillow was its own face unlike any of the other faces and, according to Gyon, each represented a human emotion. The stacking of the pillows on top of one another and fashioning them to collide into one another was emblematic of any single human being’s psychology: chaotic and disorganized but still working together to create a definable whole. While so much of the conceptual art world explores the anxiety and paranoia that technology has unleashed upon the world populace, Gyon looks toward a concept that is, if not divine, than spiritual. Her work is awake and tapped into something that lives above the cacophony of daily existence. I had to talk to her.

LEHRER: What were you going through emotionally while in university that led you to transition into creating art works?

Gyon: During my first master course, I was working through my own personal experiences with my grandmother having just passed and that prompted me to focus on my work. I was enjoying making art, but really didn’t know what I wanted to make and I wasn’t sure what my subject matter would be. I was looking for something. We held a a “gut” ritual for her and that had a big impact on me.

LEHRER: Obviously having your grandmother pass away is an emotional event, but what was it about the ceremony specifically that you connected with making artwork?

Gyon: I was not very close with my grandmother.  I was not a good grandchild. I did very bad things to her. I regretted this. After she passed away, I couldn’t do anything for her. It made me so sad and I wanted to meet her again. 

LEHRER: So you felt making art somehow would connect you to your grandmother in the way that you couldn’t while she was alive?

Gyon: Yes. During the Guy Ceremony, I felt I could meet my grandmother, like I could talk to my grandmother. I had such negative emotions in my mind and after the ceremony, they were gone. Not completely gone, but my emotions changed.

LEHRER: Your artwork is obviously very emotional. I was curious, I read that as a child, you liked burning textiles and that this became a part of your process later on. For you, was that destructive act also a creative act?

Gyon: Mhmm

LEHRER: Could you explain that a little bit?

Gyon: As a kid, I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to play with my friends. I just wanted to be alone. My mom had a lot of fabrics and I wanted to do something with them. Draw, paint, write. But, I used a lighter. It didn’t work. It all burned

LEHRER: I’ve read articles about the fashion designer Margiela when he was still around.

Gyon: I love him

LEHRER: When people asked why he sent ripped clothing down the runway, he said for him ripping clothes is just another creative act. It’s like you’re destroying something to create something else. 

GYON: I use that process, always. When I make a painting, I’ll destroy it, remake it, destroy it. It’s much better in the end. 

LEHRER: Your work has been broken down into these five different ideas: Incarnations, hair which I guess is a metaphor for life and how life can continue after death, the stigma of the shaman lifestyle of being ostracized or put away from your community, but called upon for important funerals and things like that, and catharsis. That sounds very specific. What sort of lead you to focus on these five ideas?

Gyon: I don’t think it’s so specific. It’s about life and death. Happy or unhappy.

LEHRER: So many contemporary artists now are dealing with the paranoia surrounding the digital age and surveillance technology. But your work is still dealing with the big themes of life, death, and spirituality. Obviously you have have a laptop and Wi-Fi, but do you feel yourself consciously disconnecting from technology to get in touch with your work?

Gyon: I’m not a huge technology person.

LEHRER: That helps

Gyon: I have to use laptop, i have to use iPhone. Instagram brought you and I together, it has a power. It’s so amazing. I use it, but I am very human.

LEHRER: Are you religious or just spiritual?

Gyon: I don’t have any religion. Shamans aren’t about religion, they are spiritual. 

LEHRER: Right, and they can be like medicine men too? Healers? 

Gyon: Yes, healers. That’s why I’m interested. I’m not very interested in religions. I mean, I used to go to church and used to go to Temple. You know, the Temple is a very interesting place in Chinatown. 

LEHRER: I was wondering, too, because your work does have elements of abstract expressionism and also some figuration to it, were you influenced at all by the conventional schools of art history? Are you trying to blend these concepts of ritual with the traditions of art history?

Gyon: Blend. Everything is hybrid. I always use juxtaposition—so high culture and low culture. I am always trying to juxtapose emotion and culture. My work does not just focus on shamanism. 

LEHRER: Yeah, because it still is in the context of contemporary art and art history and things like that. So for some of your work, Headcount for instance, when I first saw it I was amazed by the way it almost implies an explosive imagination. How do all those faces and characters appear to you? And how do they flow out of you?

Gyon: They just came out. And each piece is different, with different faces. I didn’t make them as a portrait, I just filled them in with emotions. I was transformed by other people. It just came out. 

LEHRER: Do you think that they’re all feelings? 

Gyon: Yes. I don’t know, it just came out and I can’t explain why. I made it by myself. 

LEHRER: You don’t use assistants or anything? 

Gyon: Some people helped me with the sewing and stuffing the cotton, but basically I do it by myself. 

LEHRER: That’s what’s so interesting about art criticism is that sometimes we take meaning from the work that’s so much different than what’s intended. 

Gyon: So different, yeah. And I really hate that people want to know what the meaning of the painting is, of these characters. It’s too much for me. I really don’t want to explain everything, every marking

LEHRER: One thing I did want to ask you though is you used to design traditional Korean garments? When did you notice the potential in those fabrics for other creative purposes? 

Gyon: I always loved clothing. I always loved the fabrics. I wanted to be a designer more than a painter. I don’t know why I’m a painter. That experience was really amazing. I didn’t even want to be an artist because I thought that it was impossible to live as one. I just went to the interview and had no idea how to make the clothing, I still can’t do it, but the designer hired me because I was really good with using color and good at drawing. And so that’s how I started working there. It was amazing. Amazing. I didn’t know how beautiful the traditional Korean dresses were. I’m very proud of it. It’s super inspiring. I mean, that’s why I went to Japan, because I wanted to study fashion. 


Follow Hyon Gyon on Instagram. text and interview by Adam Lehrer


Riding The Conceptual Wave: An Interview Of Alex Knost And Daniella Murphy On Founding The Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center

Costa Mesa, California isn’t necessarily a place where you would find a conceptual art center. Typically, you’d find miles and miles of industrial centers of commerce, nondescript retail hubs, shopping malls and franchises. Under the Southern California sun, Costa Mesa is more a setting for a novel about a society on the verge of a postmodern existential crisis. But within this crisis, you’ll find a bit of catharsis with the brand new Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center. Founded by surfer, surf historian, artist and musician Alex Knost, who recently came out with a collaborative album with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and curator Daniella Murphy, the CMCAC is a small haven for creativity in a wide strangulating vortex of urban commercialism. Located on a boulevard that looks like a hundred other boulevards – about an hour from Downtown Los Angeles – the CMCAC is conceptual in and of itself. It is not a large fancy art complex with multimillion-dollar donations and starchitect design – it is a simple storage facility acting as a gallery and a launching pad for local artists and musicians. The first artist to show at the space is Justin Adams – his exhibition, Dancing Baby, is on view now. Autre got a chance to catch up with Murphy and Knost to discuss their art center and what it means to the art world as a whole. 

Douglas Neill: What was the impetus for opening the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center with the work of Justin Adams?

Daniella Murphy: Justin lives in Alex Knost’s garage, informally. He made a spate of paintings in a really short amount of time. Alex came back from tour and Justin had made a ton of paintings, the bulk of which you see here. I think that’s how it came together. We saw what he had made and we prompted him to let us show it.

Neill: Is Justin’s process part of what interested you in showcasing his work?

Alex Knost: Justin’s process is more or less constantly participating in deconstruction. As far as being an artist who showcases his work, that’s not really him. Most of these paintings were produced in steps. All over the place…on the bed, on the ground. He’d just always be in there, tinkering about. It wasn’t really something that he presented to us at all.  It was more us prying and taking away the blankets and tee shirts that were covering all the work he had been making over the six months or so and actually looking at each other and being informally persuaded on our own recognition. I think we’re still talking him into it. He’s generally quite uncomfortable.

Murphy: We had to draw it out of him. The prime artistic act, that’s what he is.

Neill: It looks like he really digs in...using his hands.

Murphy: He uses paintbrushes and his hands and whatever he has. A lot of these canvases were found. One of the works is actually part of his car.

Neill: Lots of emotion.

Murphy: It’s definitely an outlet for him, an emotional outlet.

Neill: How did you guys come together to start the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center?

Murphy: We kind of talked about it and yeah I went to school and studied art and I used to manage a space in San Francisco that was similar in that I facilitate people’s shows coming together. Whether it be someone asking to show at a particular space, never really soliciting artists, just kind of helping people.

Neill: Connecting people.

Murphy: Yeah, at Adobe Books in San Francisco. It’s nice working with people who aren’t established and Alex was kind of keenly interested in my background, thought it was interesting and a different perspective.

Neill: Did you two meet there?

Murphy: No, we met down here actually, in LA.

Knost: My artistic background is in creating my own body of work, which at times is a tug of war because it’s hard to promote something that you create on your own. With Daniella’s knowledge of art and being selfless towards it...I thought it was charming that Daniella’s resume was in art appreciation. It created a platform. She works in LA.

Murphy: I work at a space that’s a residency and exhibition space. It’s a non profit called Fahrenheit and it’s sponsored by the FLAX Foundation which is a French foundation that facilitates French artists coming to LA and having a cultural exchange and introducing French artists in the LA context. But moving away from that, being here now more so than in LA, there’s this palpable feel here. There aren’t that many art spaces like in Orange County or this direct environment.

Neill: For better or worse there’s a lot of art aimed at tourists and the real housewives in Orange County.

Murphy: We like to see these works insinuating themselves in those homes though.

Knost: In any creative sense, I feel artists or musicians or people that are striving to create art, there’s a heart and a vibe, there’s the original area where they started and then where they’ve gravitated towards. It’s getting harder and harder for artists who solely want to create and not have to work at a café or bank off their inheritance or whatever they got, to live in places like Los Angeles and New York or San Francisco. It’s so expensive.

Murphy: As it always has been. It’s nice to have this space here, as opposed to LA.



Neill: What makes Costa Mesa the place?

Knost: From my perspective, my way of romanticizing it is we came here because this is where I grew up. I always thought of it as this bleak flat mesa in which a lot of people, since the 70s and even more so in my generation, have been great artists, musicians, who have solely been able to abide by their own facilities because there’s a lot of industrial buildings. There’s a large Latino community and they’re not as uptight and then there’s this sharp contrast with Newport Beach where it’s very consumer. You’ve had a lot of these artists and musicians residing here out of affordability and it’s always kind of seemed more of a comfortable habitat rather than a stepping stone or pedestal or something in order to grasp for vantage to be in Hollywood or something like that. It’s much more feasible.

Neill: A different headspace.

Murphy: It’s also as if socializing is a curator and artist’s metabolism. You have to go out and make those connections. So we’re trying to facilitate those connections down here. This space will hopefully be generative of it. Not just with this show, this space will be for other kinds of projects as well. 

Neill: Will CMCAC be primarily visual art or will there be music or performance?

Murphy: There’ll be performance and installations. When I walk into a space I just always want something experiential. You know something affecting, not necessarily nice art on the wall.

Knost: I believe that in calling it the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center is that, although you can look at this body of work and regard it as a decorative or abstract expressionism or anything like that, this environment becomes valuable. Justin’s work, for example, it’s very much an excruciating manifest. It’s not as if he’s a type of fellow that would go here or schmooze there to gain his repertoire. I think that in having him present his body of work as the first show is a flag in recognizing that something conceptual is obviously the thought process taking the precedent or the state of being and I think it’s very well exemplified in his work.

Neill: Is there an ultimate goal for the space? Do you want to expand it or take it as it goes?

Knost: I think the content of what passes through here obviously will amount to much more and spread its tentacles, but as far as expansion, it’s a humble environment. It isn’t as much of a progressive capitalist type thing. That’s why we called it a center, as to kind of make it communal and never ending expansion. Not ‘here’s our ceiling, here’s our goal, here’s this acute area in which to achieve.’ 

Neill: Would you ever display your own work?

Knost: Of course. The refreshing thing about doing something like this is that you’re watching all the pieces fall and being at ease with that.

Neill: Do you have roles when you’re working together?

Murphy: It’s definitely collaborative. It’s not the most formal of spaces, but it’s true to Alex’s ethos and he’s generously allowed me to partake. It’s fluid. As far as decisions with the show here, we’ll both have a say, we’ll both contribute.

Knost: We’re very open, very lax, very non-appointed. I think maybe in the first year of developing galleries and exhibition spaces, it’s always a push and pull thing. It’s usually quite aggressive, as if there are chiefs that appoint Indians that can take credit and vice versa. You know, a lot of hunter-gatherers doing so strictly to have a resume. Where as here, between Daniella and me, with the artists or musicians, poets or writers, the people that want to showcase their work, there’s more of a general consensus. 

Murphy: It’s based on aesthetic considerations, of course. We have a lot of friends who make work who we won’t show here.

Knost: We’re not scratching people’s backs. That’s not our goal. There has to be something present in it that we find circumstantial.

Neill: Has surfing influenced how you perceive art and how the creative process?

Knost: Of course, it’s an existential struggle. In surfing, there’s a balance of greed between this macho hunting for waves, outsmarting the other population, but then there’s also the embarrassment. I feel that great artists are willing to obtain greatness from despair and the complications that arise from that. In that sense, you realize that sometimes a stride can be an embarrassing one…at most a very human one. I believe that art that I find intriguing has its faults.

Neill: How did you and Kim Gordon meet/come to create together?

Knost: We had mutual friends...one gal who sells and shows her art, her husband is a filmmaker who I know. One of the groups that I’m in, performed for his after party for one of his films in New York maybe two years ago. I met her at the event, we played pool. She was working on her body of work, but needed fiberglass. I work with fiberglass, so I eventually assisted her on some works for a show she had coming up. Along the line, her being a musician, we had some free time and we ended up recording and making that record [Glitterbust] and she went on to have her show and it was great to be a part of that. The record was something that I believe we’re both quite proud of.


Justin Adams' exhibition Dancing Baby will be on view until December 17, 2016 at The Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center, 930 Placentia Blvd unit B3 Costa Mesa, CA. text and photographs by Douglas Neill. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Creative Taxonomies: An Interview Of The Brainchildren Behind The MIXER App

You can find out more about Mixer here.

I first met the guys from MIXER about a year ago when they invited me to one of their infamous launch events at a private studio in Downtown Los Angeles. The gathering was a mixture of creatives and people within the art, fashion and music worlds - there was a definitively dynamic energy that didn't all feel like a bland networking party. In fact, the energy felt the same way as their app - an exclusive social and professional networking platform that allows people to connect in major cities, like New York and Paris. In today's social and political climate, the MIXER app is more important than ever. Why private? – As you'll learn in the below interview, the founders of the app didn't want the thirst for self promotion to get in the way of basic ambitions. It's a fascinating idea and the app is a must have tool if you want to enter any aesthetic industry. In the following interview, Autre chats with the guys behind mixer – about its place in the creative world and its goals for the future. 

AUTRE: I'm curious, where did the Mixer app idea come from initially? 


ANIS: The initial idea came up two years ago when our co-founder Alex Carapetis [drummer for Julian Casablancas & The Voidz] was touring in Europe. We were chatting and thought that as a musician, it would be perfect to be able to connect with other creatives in all those cities”. The idea came from there.

CODY: I was working on a project with our investor Ronald Winston that was focused around connecting people when I met Anis and soon everything meshed together.

AUTRE: Most apps are public, but Mixer is private - why is exclusivity important when it comes to connectivity? 

CODY: The initial idea between having a “private” network is to ensure that the app wouldn’t devolve into a platform driven primarily on self-promotion and brand building. We believe there needs to be a clear delineation between artists and enthusiasts. Eventually, we would like to broaden our base to help the inspiring creatives in their learning and discovery efforts – but for now, we are trying to provide a space for artists to connect with one another without the sometimes coercive effects that come with trying to broaden one’s fan base or following.

AUTRE: You can create a social app, but how do you connect it to all the creative people out there that would benefit from it?

CODY: I think what you are asking is essentially “how do we grow the network?” after building the app. The best growth tool is providing actual value to the user and from those successes, word spreads through a number of different of channels – whether that’s press, or word-of-mouth, or some other means.

AUTRE: Before the app was released, were there any downsides found in other social apps that you wanted to avoid with Mixer?

CODY: We found that there was not something that directly solved the problem of our target users. Instagram was a great way to curate your creative content, put your ideal self out to your fans and peers, and ultimately build your personal brand. We wanted something that was solely focused on artist-to-artist interactions. We want to extend the moments shared on social media into multimedia projects. We wanted to give members the quickest way to find other creatives they are interested in potentially working with through a focused community, efficient interface, and context-driven profiles.

ANIS: Looking at the landscape of social networks these days; you have broad platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn that are not purposely built for creative networking. Then you have narrow verticals such as Behance for graphic designers, Soundcloud for musicians, 500pixels for photographers, etc. These platforms are utilized to broadcast your work as a creative instead of connecting with other creatives that may represent an interest to you. In our case, we wanted to englobe all these different verticals in the creative industries – arts, fashion, film, and music – because we truly believe that they are all connected. And we wanted to focus on “connecting” rather than “following”. 

AUTRE: You throw some great parties and release events for the app, what makes a perfect party?

ANIS: Hah, thank you! To me, it comes down to a cool and small spot, a private concert performed by a good musician who can then come and hang with his public, and obviously a fun crowd. Oh and also Alex on the drums.

AUTRE: What do you hope people find when they download the Mixer app? 

CODY: We hope that they ultimately at least make one real connection or make move forward at least one unique opportunity that they might not have had anywhere else. Ultimately, Mixer is currently not about maintaining your currently relationships, it’s about finding new ones. We are a discovery platform.

ANIS: What I personally hope: having people discover good creatives in the platform and end up connecting and working with them. What I personally hate and want to avoid: people who use it to exclusively connect with celebrities.

AUTRE: Instagram is basically a social connector app, how does Mixer differ?

CODY: Instagram is the greatest visual content platform ever created. You cannot share moments of your life and work with as much ease anywhere else. Instagram has to build a platform for the entire world – we are going for a much more targeted audience, which gives us some flexibility in building the product. We give our members access to a vetted community – we allow them to build out their projects or put more information about their work that Instagram really isn’t tailored for. We are allowing members to put up listings where others can indicate that they are interested – which works much more efficiently than screenshotting your Notes app and putting out a call to your followers.

ANIS: I would also add that Instagram is more of a broadcasting tool rather than a networking tool.

AUTRE: Do you hear about amazing success stories from people connecting on Mixer?

ANIS: It’s hard to keep track of what happens after the connections. We definitely see photographers and short film directors connect with models and shoot them, and a lot of them thank us for allowing them to do so. When it comes to musicians, because the creative process is much longer, it is a bit early for us to find out whether the connections made so far have transformed into successful collaborations. But hopefully we will be able to tell soon.

AUTRE: A lot of the people on Mixer have a number of professions in different fields, like art and fashion, what is the biggest industry on Mixer by far? 

CODY: Right now, there isn’t really a “biggest industry” by far. The distribution of Art (art, photography & design), Music, Fashion, and Film is surprising equal. The content on our platform is a bit skewed because photographers and models post much more frequently.

AUTRE: What is your favorite feature on the Mixer app?

ANIS: I personally like the fact that you can research people based on city and occupation.

CODY: Yes, I think one of the most powerful features is the filtering system in our member discovery. We ask members to identify their “profession” in the application process and review their selections as we classify our members. Correct taxonomy and classification are very important when you are trying to find exactly who you are looking for.

AUTRE: A lot of creatives live in major cities, do you extend Mixer as a tool for people in more remote areas that may benefit from connecting with creatives in culture capitals?

ANIS: We decided to focus at first on big cities such as NYC, LA, Paris and London, because those are indeed the biggest hubs for creatives. But a network effect will definitely get creatives from smaller cities to sign up and be able to network and collaborate with people all over the world, simply through their phones.

AUTRE: What is the criteria for getting an invite to Mixer?

ANIS: Anyone can refer his/her friends, and anyone can sign up, even un-referred. But in order to be approved, you need to be able to qualify through your work in the arts, fashion, film, or music industries. When we look you up, we need to see some references on you. And being referred by an existing user also helps a lot.

AUTRE: What's next for Mixer?  

CODY: We are focusing on helping members easily finding opportunities for collaboration and connect with one another. This means helping members easily create (and add to) their portfolios from information they have spread across the web and social accounts, we are always working to make finding the person with a specific skill set and vision that you are looking for.

ANIS: Product-wise, we’re adding a jobs section pretty soon, where companies and creatives will be able to post detailed job listings and recruit other creatives. Growth-wise, while still growing in the cities we are present in, we would like to start hitting other European capitals like Berlin and Milan in a very near future.


 photograph by Jason Sheldon. text and interview by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE



 

Synesthesia From A Higher Power: An Interview Of Double Diamond Sun Body

text by Summer Bowie

When Miles Davis scored Louis Malle’s Elevator To The Gallows, he took a wild approach that was as daring as it was genius. He simply watched the film from beginning to end, took some notes, wrote a few themes in his hotel room and then handed them to a small band in the morning. From there they followed his lead as he improvised his way through a second screening of the film. He didn’t read the script, he didn’t speak French, and he certainly didn’t know much about French new wave. Miraculously, the result was uncanny in its ability to capture the very essence of loneliness and desperation. He had an incredible facility for processing an image and then giving it a sonic projection that glides past the intellectualization process and rings clear as a bell right in the central nervous system. Thus is the facility that is immediately evident in the work of Robbie Williamson, otherwise known as Double Diamond Sun Body.

He is a musician first and foremost, but his work has expanded into a multitude of mediums over the course of his lifetime, and right now his creative juices are bursting and radiating in all directions like a newly born star. Though, that’s definitely nowhere close to the way that he would describe himself. He’s a humble soul with a genuine sense of curiosity, all of which is underscored by a mystical je ne sais quoi. He spent over a decade scoring films and television before he started experimenting with performance and making his own films to accompany his soundscapes, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, this work has proliferated and evolved to include installation, sculpture and paintings, and is now finally culminating in his first solo show at MAMA Gallery in Los Angeles, entitled Saffron Crow’s Associate. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling a little dissociated while experiencing the work. If you submit to that feeling, it becomes an otherworldly adventure that allows you to zoom out and observe Earth from a bird’s eye view. We had the chance to sit down with the artist and talk about his musical beginnings, his spiritual investigations, and the wonders of human nature.

Summer Bowie: Let’s start at the very beginning, where did you grow up?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I grew up in Seattle.

Bowie: What was the atmosphere like at the time? Did you always have creative ambitions and were they always nurtured while you were growing up?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, my atmosphere was music in Seattle. I grew up just skateboarding a lot and playing in bands. I would play shows during the era of Nirvana and Soundgarden, and a lot of punk bands from D.C.––that Dischord label––people like Beefeater and Fugazi.

Bowie: Wow, so you were fully in that world while it was happening in Seattle.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I was really entrenched in it. I was in a record label called C/Z Records and playing a lot of shows and touring.

Bowie: What kind of band were you playing with at that point when you got signed?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I was playing with a band that was very math rock, super intense, just very complicated arrangements mixed with punk––that kind of music.

Bowie: That’s amazing! What were you playing?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I was playing bass.

Bowie: And when did that start?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I started when I was fifteen. And then from there I moved to Portland and played in a band called Hitting Birth.

Bowie: Wow, what kind of music was that?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was very theatrical. Sort of industrial, but very light. Not industrial aesthetically but sound wise it was very rhythmic and heavy, but aesthetically it was lots of white clothing and colors, and the opposite of what you’d think industrial would be.

Bowie: Crazy. And how’d you get into composing music for films?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I wrote a film called Dandelion that starred Vincent Kartheiser from Madmen. I wrote that with my friend and we got it made. It ended up doing really well, went to Sundance and winning a bunch of awards in different festivals around the world. That was the first film I scored. That film did pretty well and a lot of people started asking me to score their films based on that movie, so that’s how I got into it. I just kept going with it and never stopped for a decade.

Bowie: I love that. And there’s really a spiritual aspect to what you do––something kind of ‘other­worldly.’ When did you first get introduced to this side of yourself - or was it always there?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was always there - since I was around twelve. You know, it started normally with Carlos Castaneda books and stuff, then it just kinda grew and never stopped growing. I don’t know, it was something that was always with me. It came from reading. Then I joined a lot of different groups that were studying various esoteric things. And I never really expressed it as much as I do now because I was always doing things with other people.

Bowie: Wow, and were your parents a part of this or was it just completely your own thing?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was my own thing, and then when I was around twenty I started to do some things with my mother.

Bowie: That’s so beautiful. And then your name Double Diamond Sun Body...where did it come from and when did you decide to adopt it?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I took on that name from something that I read a couple years ago. It’s hard to explain but it has to do with the Christ embodiment or sort of like a Christ consciousness or Christ energy 2.0.

Bowie: Heavy.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I really resonated with the ideas around that and how that energy integrates into modern life. So the name just really resonated with me.

Bowie: It seems like a lot of that ethos was evident in your former band, We Are the World, but that work was much different than your current work. What was the creative mission behind that project?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I don’t think there really was a mission. It was a group of creative people coming together and going off the cuff, ya know. There wasn’t a mission but a lot of people interpreted it that way, like they would see us as a cult, or see our performances as very cult­ish and always wanted to know what it meant. I think it was just the right combination of people that exuded that kind of impression, but there wasn’t an intention, you know what I’m saying?



Bowie: Yeah, just a performative exploration as a group. And do you like being in a band or do you prefer performing solo?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think that all the different projects I worked with I really enjoyed, but they’ve each served their purpose in getting me to where I am now. I couldn’t really foresee being in another band, but I’m really glad that I was for so long.

Bowie: You blend music and performance in a really unique way. What kind of emotions are you trying to convey or evoke through the energy of your music and your performances?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think in general I’m trying to express the utter mystery of life and what we’re all doing, while embracing very traditional actions and very traditional institutions in terms of very basic spirituality. Trying to hone that down to a basic thin––not making it very complicated. Traditional values of family, physical labor, children, simple colors, and combining those energies with the ambiguous, ethereal nature of the music. When you combine those two you get something interesting.

Bowie: And do you feel that you’re on a journey or a spiritual path that you’re exploring with your work that’s separate from your own life trajectory? Or are they both one in the same?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think they’re absolutely one in the same. One couldn’t exist without the other.

Bowie: Your show at MAMA is very unique because it’s the first time that your pursuits as a fine artist will coalesce into something much grander. Can you describe the show and its meaning? Particularly, the meaning behind its title?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, Saffron Crow’s Associate is about an entity named Saffron Crow and his associate. They are off­planet entities that visit Earth to basically just check it out. They’re flying by to see what’s happening. They get here and are immediately enamored with the way in which races coexist and battle each other more or less. They’re also very interested in the way the media perpetuates this sort of battle. They find it really unnecessary and sort of comment on all of this, while presenting simple solutions to the problematic way that the races react toward one another.

Bowie: Can you give us an example of any of those solutions?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think that they really are of the opinion that races should try to have more pride in their race, versus trying to shove their race down other races’ throats, and say “accept me, accept me!” That goes for white races too. All races should. And simultaneously I think they really say that you should have mad respect for all races while letting them be sovereign entities and not give into this forced assimilation constantly. Again this is all their opinion. They think it just causes more problems.

Bowie: Do you believe in a higher power or spiritual enlightenment? Do you think that humans have lost sight of this side of themselves?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I don’t think that question can really ever be answered––in the way that I think any answer to that question would be a complete assumption. So yeah, I would leave it at that. But I think for someone like them and me­­because I feel as though I’m channeling them­­there’s something going on. I would be absolutely floored if this was all a result of stars colliding into each other and bacteria growing.

Bowie: So if you were an alien that came to this planet are these the first impressions that you believe you would have regarding human nature?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think I would. If I really imagine another planet or another race of beings that live there, the last thing I’m gonna do is think, “Oh there are these beings living on this planet.” I would think, “Wow, there’s several types of beings on this planet and they don’t get along? They have bombs pointing at each other, and still don’t understand each other, and are still fighting for equality?” and I’d be completely enamored by this.

Bowie: How does sound play into that aspect of the show?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I’m working with colors and tones in the notes. Specific notes go with specific colors. So the sound of the show is going to be very meditative and very different than the music that I’ve been performing live. When there’s a certain message or certain subtitle, or color, there is a corresponding tone to accentuate the message.

Bowie: It’s almost like you’re sharing a sense of synesthesia with us.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Absolutely. It’s subjective to the most of my ability. But work like that is highly mathematical. Somewhere in the universe of Earth there are objective equations that can get information across better via color and tone. However, I’m no expert at it, but I’m trying to incorporate that to the best of my ability, which will work for some people, but it might not do anything for others.

Bowie: I guess we won’t know that until the show.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be very different for everyone.

Bowie: Well, where do we go from here? What’s the most important lesson that we should learn as a species?

Double Diamond Sun Body: In my opinion, I think there should be less identification. That’s what Saffron’s talking about in the intro of the film when it says, “come with me to observe the animal.” I think that that’s what the show is about, observing the animal. And the animal is only an animal when it has lots of identifications. And when you can observe yourself and not identify with everything all the time, then you’re opening yourself up to some potential.

Bowie: My last question is why is Saffron Crow’s Associate the pointed figure?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Because Saffron Crow only speaks when he really wants to speak and he’s busy. So his associate does most of the commentary, but Saffron does appear a few times.

Bowie: Gotcha­­I like it. So sort of like the way Double Diamond Sun Body is just channeling something higher.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, maybe Double Diamond Sun Body is someone else’s associate.

[laughs]

Bowie: Yeah. Awesome, thanks so much.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Cool, that was nice. Thank you.


Double Diamond Sun Body "Saffron Crow's Associate" will be on view from November 5 to December 5, 2016 at MAMA Gallery, 1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles. Text and interview by Summer Bowie. Photographs by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


New Street History: An Interview of Legendary Japanese Photographer Keizo Kitajima

You could say that Keizo Kitajima is an heir to the Provoke photography movement’s electrifying foundation and principle idea that a photographic image can be a completely new type of language. It’s a language fired from the shutter of a camera – a lexicon that can encapsulate a fraction of a moment, yet recite an epic in a single explosive image. Often blurry, out of focus and with choking contrast, the short lived movement made icons out of photographers such as Daido Moriyama. Moriyama also seemed to have the most influence, especially on Kitajima who was encouraged to carry on in the tradition of Provoke, but also expand beyond its confines – to travel the world and to see if that same language could tell a more universal story. Kitajima made his way  to New York in the early 80s – a pivotal time when the streets were alive with a new breed of bohemia and fervent creativity. His resultant images from the six months spent on the beat in Manhattan resulted in some of the best documentation of the era. In 1990, Kitajima traveled to the USSR to photograph the last glimmer of the Soviet Union – all on rich, saturated, extinct Kodochrome film. Currently, Kitajima has an exhibition of works spanning his entire career on view at Little Big Man gallery in Los Angeles. Featuring vintage and new prints, it’s a perfect glimpse into the oeuvre of a lesser-known photographer that deserves to be a legend. Autre got a chance to catch up with Kitajima to ask a few questions about his work and to discuss why he could never make a photo book about Los Angeles. 

OLIVER KUPPER: So, first off, thank you. I appreciate your time. My first question is: what are some of the greatest lessons you learned at the Workshop School?

KEIZO KITAJIMA: There was no formal class there but I was very influenced by [Daido] Moriyama. Basically, Moriyama taught me how to think and how to look. And, those lessons are still with me today.

KUPPER: Interesting. And you knew about him, breaking out of the transcript a little, but you discovered his photography earlier than the school, as a teenager right?

KITAJIMA: Yeah, at the end of my teens.

KUPPER: How did you discover his work? I mean, obviously he is a big force in Japanese photography, but what was it about his work that was so electrifying?

KITAJIMA: Moriyama is famous for his Provoke photographs, for the destructive qualities of his images. This is what attracted me. It was not just Moriyama but also photographer Takuma Nakahira who I was drawn to for his rather dangerous and challenging writing and thinking which broke down prejudices. And, Nakahira was of course also producing images that looked like Moriyama’s as well.

KUPPER: Do you feel like you were carrying on the tradition of modern Japanese photography or were you trying to break totally new ground?

KITAJIMA: Of course I was critical of modern Japanese photography. But, at the same time, even the criticism of that work could only become another kind of modernism.

KUPPER: When you’re visiting New York or USSR, do you go in with a specific approach. When you’re commissioned to do specific series do you go in with a specific plan or is it totally improvised?

KITAJIMA: No plan. I just figured it out when I got there.

KUPPER: Is that intimidating?

KITAJIMA: No, not really. It wasn’t scary.

KUPPER: Can you describe the energy you’re feeling when you’re shooting in the streets or a night club? And, are you trying to transfer that energy to the photographs you’re taking?

KITAJIMA: When I’m in a city, I respond to things on many different levels. So, I might walk down the street and say “that’s a pretty girl” or “that’s a sad looking sky” or “this is dirty” or “this is beautiful.” Taking photographs is a kind of system for synthesizing these things. Film expresses these things in many different ways. For me, photographing in a city means to expose what’s inside of me. I try to do that as specifically as I can. I don’t just have one way of looking at things and I try to make clear the many different ways of looking at things. A baby, when born, knows nothing and as the baby grows up it will eventually get taken up by various systems which is not part of its control. In other words, the subject is created by society. So, in a sense then, the society is actually the real maker of my photographs. The fact that I speak Japanese is totally out of my control, it’s just something that is imposed on me from outside.

KUPPER: So the photographic process is almost automatic in a way.

KITAJIMA: I think about these things while photographing constantly. After taking photographs every day my mind kind of became like this.

KUPPER: So, this is a less philosophical question: you have an amazing photograph of Mick Jagger, sort of iconic of that New York series. Can you talk a little bit about how that image came about?

KITAJIMA: I saw The Stones walking down the street, from their bus into a bar called St. Mark’s Grill. I just kind of wandered in there. I encountered them. For me, New York is a place where you can see Andy Warhol or some other star and on the same street meet a beggar.

KUPPER: Did you ever spend time with any of these artists at the time or was this something you were just photographing from the outside?

KITAJIMA: I took photographs at The Factory once but I wasn’t spending a lot of time with him or other artists.

KUPPER: When you’re producing the pictures of negatives, do you imagine them more in photo books or on gallery walls?

KITAJIMA: It’s changed. When I was young I wanted to make photo books. After New York I stopped; I didn’t feel I wanted to make books as much afterwards. In the past five years I’ve become more interested in making photo books again.

KUPPER: As a teacher yourself, what kind of wisdom can you impart to our generation of photographers, especially in a digital world?

KITAJIMA: If it was ten years ago maybe I would have had some advice, but now I feel that there is nothing for me to say.

KUPPER: How do you feel about the digital revolution in photography?

KITAJIMA: In Japan, everyone is talking about what is digital or what’s the difference between digital and analog but the only thing we can do is get used to digital. Let’s get used to digital. But, I’m speaking about my own generation. For question of what looks like photography or what is photographic, the answer is different for my generation or for younger generations. Old people who look at digital photographs might say “this isn’t a photograph,” or younger people who are only used to seeing digital photographs might look at an older photograph and think “this is a really weird photograph.” But that’s photography. There is no original in photography.

KUPPER: So for this show, it’s a little bit of everything. Was it difficult to curate the show or pare things down?

KITAJIMA: Well, Nick did most of it.

KUPPER: Okay. And there are also some color photographs which people don’t usually see. Do you like shooting in color, working with the embrace of color? There’s a different energy between black and white.

KITAJIMA: I’m only taking color photographs these days but I don’t use monochrome film because I’m using a digital camera now. There’s just no need to make that black and white. The difference that I see is when you’re taking a color photograph the color is also an object. In other words, that you could take a photograph of something just because it is blue. Or red! Color is on par with taking a photograph because of the object properties of it. Color is a very important question.

KUPPER: Last question, if you were to make a photo book about LA, what would it look like?

KITAJIMA: I really like the West Coast in general and Los Angeles in particular. If I was going to take photographs on the West Coast my rival would have to be Karl Watkins. I’m very interested in photographing Yosemite, where Watkins’ photographs are from but if I were to photograph LA it would be desert landscapes. LA is an artificial city built in the middle of the desert.

KUPPER: Yeah. It would the desert city of Los Angeles.

KITAJIMA: It would be really difficult to make a book in LA because I only take photographs when it’s cloudy or rainy.

KUPPER: So you can never take photographs in LA.

KITAJIMA: Yeah, it’s basically impossible.

KUPPER: There’s maybe two days a year so not much career in that. You’d have to work quickly.

KITAJIMA: Well today was a little cloudy and overcast. On Monday I’m going to Joshua Tree, it’s like being on another planet.

KUPPER: Yeah, totally, like being in outer space. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.


Keizo Kitajima's exhibition New Street History is on view now until November 27 at Little Big Man Gallery in Los Angeles. text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


The Girl In The Picture: An Interview Of Performance Artist Martine Gutierrez

Martine Gutierrez - a name that fits the glamour.  I met Martine about ten years ago during a MICA pre-college program.  We were both sixteen and as I remember, she beamed.  Tall, colorful clothes and gender-ambiguous, us suburban kids were pleasantly perplexed.  She had supermodel looks and a bright and bouncy personality; it’s almost as if she had a gravitational pull, her particular brand of sexiness notwithstanding.  When you’re that age, it’s hard to know why you’re interested in something.  You mostly go off of feeling or intuition to guide you but you know when something is good and right.  Martine seemed to possess both a deep sincerity and gentleness combined with the ability to laugh at oneself and be direct.  She embodied the human spirit, thoughtful and kind, goddess that was both retro and future. To my young mind, this was what was good and right in the world.  Seeing her recent work, this still rings true and it comes as no surprise that others have been just as enchanted.  Martine has been featured in numerous magazines including Interview, i-D, PAPER, and Vogue.  She is represented by Ryan Lee Gallery and recently opened her solo show WE & THEM & ME at CAM Raleigh. She continues to be herself against a world that can be damning, slow on the uptake, and the results, like herself, are flexible in context and challenge ideas of what it means to be a woman today.

AUDRA WIST: I see you using your body in a positive way that's both direct and sensitive, which is something I feel like doesn't happen so much. I see a lot of pain and suffering being expressed, but I wondered if you think about circumventing that pain and suffering instead of just reflecting it back.

MARTINE GUTIERREZ: The fear of stigma and labels is definitely still an underpinning of mainstream media, affecting all of us since we’re all constantly surrounded by it. I put added effort into looking hyper feminine in my work, but for someone like me that’s also a process of my everyday life. It’s easier and safer to “pass” in public than to go to the grocery store with scruff and breasts. But fem pressure really affects all women.  Hair styling, uncomfortable shoes, makeup, objectifying ourselves…but for who?  If we’re aware of the male gaze, who are we dressing for and why?  These are some of the questions I feel affect my choices when performing characters.  

I think one of the recurrent personas my work’s been spiraling around is that of the ‘Supermodel’. She physically embodies ethnographic ideals through the eyes of the oppressive culture on a hyperbolic level.  The Supermodel isn’t just skinny and tall—she's epitomized as perfection.  It’s all so ingrained within cis culture that anyone who is Trans or non-gender binary is forced to maneuver though the Supermodel propaganda as well.  No matter the trends or decades, “feminine” or “masculine”, its all just drag— accentuating features that are culturally assigned as female or male.

WIST: Yeah I’ve always thought that way about how contouring has been appropriated by mainstream entities like Kim Kardashian. That’s drag. Contouring is drag.

GUTIERREZ: Oh yeah, the Kardashians are like nude drag queens.  Kim has had more surgeries than most of the T girls I know.  That family is pumped, beat, and woven just to sit in the kitchen—there's no separation between home glam and the red carpet.  It's like a lifestyle of perpetual photo shoots and it’s amazing.  I mean I personally don’t have the stamina; I don’t like wearing makeup or the feeling of it.  But I think that also comes from the pressure to feminize, more now than ever—to pass when I'm on the street.  I began hormone replacement therapy on New Year’s of last year and my beard still grows, so I will wear makeup if I'm really trying to pass, and even then when people look at me I feel like they’re examining the makeup and what its covering.  Even with cis women who have a lot of makeup on riding the train, I’m guilty of studying.

WIST: The question I have that pertains to this is because you are beautiful and modelesque, it does feel like you have a keen awareness of that position or role that you take up of looking a particular way.  What do you think the relationship is between fashion and art?

GUTIERREZ: First off, thank you for calling me beautiful! I think I'm connected to fashion media and merchandising media subconsciously, in part because it was at one point an avenue I really wanted to be celebrated in. I remember being a teenager and watching ANTM and wanting to be on the show so badly, and studying—taking notes. I was 18 and printed the paperwork on my mom’s printer with a friend and she was like, “Do it, you could win!” and we’d scream and giggle like dreams were coming true; but listed at the bottom of the application was a requirement that you were female, so I never sent it in.

And at the same time, I would do photo shoots by myself at home, or in the woods, or in parking lots, trying to master what exactly made this look legit and glossy. I wanted the budget and the lifestyle—the whole fantasy. I wanted to be Richard Avedon and Nastassja Kinski with a boa constrictor coiled around her naked body.  I had a brief stint with the fashion world right out of college and realized the glam was just merchandising.  For the major houses it's all just clothing that’s being shown to us with a halo of light around it.

WIST: I don't want to put words in your mouth but it seems like you’re concerned with the mechanisms behind what we want in that context instead of just saying oh, this is cool, this is trendy, boop.  Also you’re an autonomous person in the world as opposed to Gucci.

GUTIERREZ: In the beginning, as I began to call performative actions art, the work became more than just self-portraits—my aspirations began to build the rhetoric behind it.  I also simultaneously started going into the world with a much louder appearance.  I was introduced to queer theory and ‘gender-fuck’ and started sporting face paint, red and turquoise hair and bright mismatched patterns—teen gender rebellion antics.  I wasn’t comfortable with other people taking my portrait for a really long time, which is in part why I started developing the skills to execute all the aspects of image making—hair and makeup, setting and lighting.  It took a long time for me just to be comfortable and trust other people behind the lens, to allow someone else to take my picture.  

WIST: What do you think the line is between narcissism and self-reflection or productive use of your body and self-aggrandizing?  Or is there a line/does there need to be a line?

GUTIERREZ: I think it’s just perception, unless the artist themselves has made a statement that they’re a narcissist or the artwork is about being obsessed with themselves.  I don't think about narcissism when I'm making my work and maybe it's partly because on numerous occasions I have been right next to gallery goers at my own show who talk about the “girl in the picture,” with no idea that she is me, or that I was born male. That person in real life and this person in the image are rarely the same person, and that degree of separation is crucial when I hear them chatting about my “very flat chest”, or asking “why does she have a mustache drawn on?” I’ll be standing beside someone visual probing my body, and I'm just like, This is insane!  I don't even have to wear sunglasses and they don’t recognize me! So at the end of the day I'm not even taking pictures of myself—I’m taking pictures of another woman.

WIST: I feel the same way in terms of the artworks I’ve made.  I don't feel like myself totally - it’s like projections of myself or people or things that we might all experience, or I hope that these are things that are others people’s experiences and feelings of the way they look or they act. I don’t know where I came up with this hypothesis, but I want to say that your parents were pretty accepting from an early age. Is that true? Or am I making that up?

GUTIERREZ: Yeah. Well – my mom was and my dad is still an ongoing conversation.

WIST: So do you think that has affected your self-perception?  Again, I’ve gone through the same thing of having to tell them that I'm a sex worker and it ended up with my dad being more supportive than my mom at first.

GUTIERREZ: I think it was crucial in feeling supported at a young age, because it took a long time for me to meet people that I felt expressed themselves in the same way that I did, or in parallel ways with diverse pronouns and greater self-awareness, or people who had already been on hormones for years. It’s not just Avril Lavigne, Misunderstood syndrome. It’s like, on top of trying to navigate my own self-awareness, anyone who is of Trans experience is simultaneously dealing with the binaries of sexual orientation. The reality is that the same cis guys who used to call me a faggot on the street now slap me on the ass. I have no way of knowing if the guy who is attracted to me, that I meet randomly on the street or in the club, will turn around and hurt me once we’re feeling each other up. It’s so much easier for me to interact with other women. With men I need to be forthcoming from the start in a way, and it should not be my problem that some rando is insecure about his own sexuality, but he could turn around and kill me and throw me in a dumpster. It’s real, and it’s terrifying. Cis men are terrifying—cis white men have been the worst.


"I’d love it if gender could be seen outside of the LGBTQ community as a possibility, not just assigned or borrowing from the binary.  Club kids have been living that ideal for years, punks and drag queens mainstreamed it, today’s queer community embraces it, and the fashion world always appropriates the philosophy as a fad or style inspiration."


WIST: How do you see the role of Trans artists changing in the context of history i.e. Vaginal Davis, Greer Lankton, and even somebody like Orlan who isn't a transgender woman but has been changing her looks for years now?

GUTIERREZ: I think it’s really important for the younger generation. It would be amazing to see artists of gay and Trans experience be referenced within the context of history and art history; it just doesn’t happen unless you pursue something like Gender Studies, specifically in higher education. Trans women still face violence and fetishism, manifested physically on the street or quietly in the workplace. This is especially true for Trans women of color, who are cast outside the norm as a concentrated minority within their own minority. But I’d hope that with time the work of Trans and non-binary artists will stand to represent much more than the identity of the maker. Academia and media needs to stop othering artists as ‘gay’, ‘trans’, ‘black’, ‘Latino’, ‘Asian’ etc.– it’s like, they’re also people of broad subcultural experiences. We’re definitely not there yet.

WIST: Yeah, I feel like the people I listed too I think are considered to be playthings?  They’re always shown in the context of some lightness, when the actual experience is pretty serious.  You go through shit when you’re a person working with your own body and it seems to be shown in this light teehee way.

GUTIERREZ: I’d love it if gender could be seen outside of the LGBTQ community as a possibility, not just assigned or borrowing from the binary.  Club kids have been living that ideal for years, punks and drag queens mainstreamed it, today’s queer community embraces it, and the fashion world always appropriates the philosophy as a fad or style inspiration. That appropriation is a huge disservice, and makes me skeptical of all the “progress” people keep yammering on about. I naively thought transitioning would be easy or seamless but I was so wrong. I mean, the concept being simple as an individual I think is true, but the reality of living in our world in a body that is beginning to reflect “feminine” versus “masculine” in a binary way…. I'm being treated completely differently.  It’s definitely a new awareness—of everything.  It's the treatment of women's bodies that is so different.  I mean, it’s not difficult to literally be a woman because I have always been one. I’m just not used to being groped and stalked and catcalled to this extent.

WIST: Yeah, that must be a total trip. Welcome!

GUTIERREZ: It’s crazy, and I'm not even dressed in a provocative way when it happens.

WIST: I think it's because a lot of straight men do not know what it’s like to be penetrated. The gaze is penetration. It’s funny; a lot of the men that I have been with aren’t necessarily kinky or BDSM-minded. I think they recognize that after meeting me they are “safe” or safe to let their guard down a bit since they know I won’t judge based on their sexual interests. All of a sudden a switch goes off and I get a flood of interesting texts. The tables are turned and even the sounds that they’re making in bed, sheesh. I feel like if more straight men could give in—

GUTIERREZ: If anal stimulation or getting pegged were socially celebrated as being really masculine and manly, we’d be living in a different world.

WIST: I think that too! It would create a different, more balanced vibe.

GUTIERREZ: It’d be like ancient Greece where they didn’t use the label gay. Men had sex with men and women.  Men could be each other’s lovers—and they were! That’s why the 300 soldiers fought so hard in battle, because they loved each other.

WIST: Because there was a real emotional bond and vulnerability!

GUTIERREZ: It didn't make any of them less of a man. I mean, you would think two really masculine guys, whatever that means… I guess really hairy, buff, and…I'm going into bear territory. Like, who are the manly dudes everyone has a crush on? Zac Efron and…

WIST: Zayn!

GUTIERREZ: Omg yes! You would think that these two men Zac Efron and Zayn…

WIST: Could get each other off!

GUTIERREZ: Yeah, you would think two dudes, dude-ing each other around all ruff, pounding one another other all night would be manly! But no, culturally somehow that makes them feminine and by default weak?

WIST: I know it’s crazy. Not one, but two dicks!

GUTIERREZ: Isn't the phallus manly? Wouldn't adding more testosterone be more manly?

WIST: Oh man, I totally agree. More men need to be fucked. Or be okay with being in the grey area. But like you said, things take time. We need more public figure examples of different types of “other” because then it just becomes more varied and people can realize there’s more than just one type or two types or whatever the fuck of an idea they have.

GUTIERREZ: Laverne Cox is amazing. Thank god her voice is out there. She's so smart and beautiful.

WIST: Yeah I can’t think of anyone else off the top of my head besides her, but maybe it’s gonna be you. I could see it, I would love it! You’d be great; it’d be a full circle for you.

GUTIERREZ: I am definitely captivated by celebrity and the media that surrounds people who are spectacles, but truthfully, I don't really like performing live and anytime I do (which has become more and more rare) I end up hiding from people who compliment me. I don’t know if they are necessarily fans, but if I don’t know them it just makes me so uncomfortable! I would much rather release things onto the Internet and send them into the ether like a message in a bottle.  

WIST: What excites you the most about making work today in 2016?

GUTIERREZ: That I'm older. I'm only twenty-seven years old but I feel like I’ve purged a lot of idealism out already. For a long time I have been living fluid concepts of gender with an awareness that the space between the binaries is the only place to find complete freedom. I didn’t want to necessarily hit people over the head with these themes. I wanted the viewer to walk away with some new awareness about their own perceptions of gender and sexual reality—and I still feel this way. People need to question themselves and be confused. That’s how we grow and evolve. Confusion is good, and so much more self-reflective than giving someone a summary of what it is that they’re supposed to be taking away from the work. When you’re left confused, you have to keep thinking.

I feel like I was using a lot of cis mechanisms and like I said before, the Supermodel was very much an influence. I didn’t fully understand when I was still going by Martín that my fem aspirations were so controlled by social aspirations. Society’s importance for women to look a certain way built the Supermodel, not me. I knew this and still I wanted to be seen as her. I know now that she’s begging to be rebuilt. I wish I had this awareness years ago, but I know now. Today is better.


Martine Gutierrez's exhibition "True Story" will be on view until December 11, 2016 at Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. text and interview by Audra Wist. photographs by Martine Gutierrez. You can explore more of Martine's work on her website or follow her on Instagram: @MARTINE.TVFollow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Being Sandro Miller: An Interview of Photographer and Artist Sandro Miller

text by Adam Lehrer

 

Sandro Miller has been using photography as a medium for storytelling for over 30 years. In both commercial work and fine art endeavors, Miller has shown time and time again that the still image can be imbued with as much emotion and theatrics as a 90 minute film: “ I strive to make images that move people and facilitate conversation,” says Miller.

Many of Miller’s best known projects are loaded with Freudian subtext and even pathos. His images examine the psychologies of his subjects to find out what drives them and simultaneously fulfill a kind of personal fantasy for Miller. For instance, his project American Bikers looks at life in a biker gang and finds out that bikers don’t ride Harley Davidson motorcycles because they are the fastest or smoothest bikes; on the contrary, they ride them because they are the loudest and most obnoxious bikes. These bikers ride bikes to communicate to the world, “I am here, goddamn’ it!” His portraits of Cuban boxers capture the pain and agony of training that go into the athlete’s quest for personal improvement and glory. All the while, Miller admits that a part of him has always wanted to be a boxer and a biker. “I fulfill these fantasies through my photography,” says Miller. “Since the biker project, I’ve been riding a motorcycle for 20 years.”

Another artist that uses images to explore his own fantasies and dreams is of course David Lynch. Miller has long worked with the Steppenwolf Theater Company and its actor John Malkovich. Malkovich has served as subject to numerous Miller projects, including one in which the pair paid homage to 36 iconic photographs (by the likes of Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibowitz and more) entitled Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich. Now, the duo has turned their efforts in recreation towards the master of cinematic surreal horror, Lynch. In a short film recreating characters from Lynch’s output entitled Playing Lynch, Miller films Malkovich as Lynch himself, Twin Peaks’ Agent Dale Cooper and Log Lady, The Elephant Man’s John Merrick, Blue Velvet’s Frank, Eraserhead’s Henry Spencer and Lady in the Radiator, and Lost Highway’s chilling Mystery Man (once played by the utterly horrifying actor Robert Blake). One fascinating caveat of the film is that the characters, while selected by fans using a social media poll, are all emblematic in someway of Lynch himself. It’s arguably a conceptual personality analysis.

The film premiered last weekend at Lynch’s music festival The Festival of Disruption amidst performances by art-pop band Xiu XIu and Sky Ferreira doing the music of Twin Peaks, St. Vincent, and Rhye. The film is available upon donation through its website, and all proceeds will go to The David Lynch Foundation that promotes Transcendental Meditation as a means of overcoming trauma. Miller and I spoke about the project as well as a life spent in the creation of imagery. 

LEHRER: So, I just wanted to start off asking you: judging from your prior work with Malkovich and also the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, I understand that you most likely have a deep love for performance and that probably extends to cinema. How did cinema become important to you?

MILLER: I came from a home that was run by a single mom who came over from Italy. The arts weren’t emphasized. My artistic soul developed at an early age I discovered photography at the age of about fifteen, seeing the work of Irving Penn. What really began my great love for cinema was seeing The Godfather in my teens. With that film I finally really began to get it: the importance of cinema, the impact of cinema, and what it really means to visualize. It was a way for me to begin to heal a lot of the early years of a very dysfunctional childhood.

LEHRER: That’s interesting to me, too, especially with you being Italian. As much as I love [Federico] Fellini and [Michelangelo] Antonioni, ‘70s Hollywood cinema and [Francis Ford] Coppola and [Martin] Scorsese and [Brian] De Palma are my guys. Hollywood at that time was pouring a lot of money into really bold, artistic statements which is something doesn’t really happen anymore.

MILLER: Right, for the really big productions, like Ben-Hur, it was just so grandiose. That chariot race was so unnerving. I remember as a youngster, sitting at the end of my couch, and watching, going ‘Oh my god! There’s going to be this huge accident!’ You could feel it. That was the golden era of cinema.

LEHRER: Especially now, with the big studios the superhero films eat up most of the budgets and they’re super safe and they’re going to make a billion dollars anyway. There’s only a few auteur American directors that can still get funding whether they be PT Anderson or Wes Anderson or [Quentin] Tarantino. Most conceptual filmmaking has gone towards TV or streaming.

MILLER: You know Adam, I have to tell you: just this week I received fifteen Woody Allen films in the mail. There’s a guy who just made [cinema] very very simple. It was just great scripts that he would write, great humor, a great connection with all of his actors and actresses, and they all wanted to give him so much. It was really film at its basics.

LEHRER: With that, he was really able to create a clearly defined aesthetic. Manhattan I think was the one that I most identified with. I love that movie.

MILLER: Absolutely, absolutely. I like New York Stories, which I just watched. It was kind of a three piece film that Coppola and Scorsese shared with Woody Allen. There’s so many great Woody films.

LEHRER: I’m just curious, did you watch the De Palma documentary?

MILLER: I have not seen that yet.

LEHRER: Noah Baumbach did it. It’s basically just DePalma in his office talking about every single one of his movies. It’s fascinating. He starts off by saying pretty much everything he does he ripped off from Hitchcock and just modernized the Hitchcock aesthetic by saturating it with color. It’s pretty awesome.

MILLER: Well, I give him credit for putting his Hitchcock influence out there. [DePalma] has done so many great things. He has definitely earned his place in cinema.

LEHRER: Yeah, absolutely. It’s hard to imagine a studio funding a movie like Sisters or Carrie now. It wouldn’t happen.

MILLER: Yeah, it wouldn’t happen. Exactly.

LEHRER: So, I wanted to also ask you, leading into photography, do you think photography and images have the capability for narrative tension and emotion that theatre and cinema does? Or, is that at least what you’re aiming for in your photographs? Because they are rather emotional.

MILLER: That’s a great question. I do believe so. I made my name doing commercial photography and I got hired from all over the world to create very emotional portraits: people crying, people laughing, people dying. Whatever it might be. I always tell people that photography is the big educator. If you think about it, most of what you know—about what wars are like, what a tsunami or AIDS looks like— it isn’t personally experienced. Photography is how we know. Photography, along with travel, has been my education.

LEHRER: We’re living in such a photograph heavy society, with digital photography and cell phones, and I read this quote by a photographer, it might have been Collier Schorr but I can’t remember, who said something like, “everyone’s a photographer but there are very few image-makers left.” Do you agree with that at all?

MILLER: Absolutely. It hurts me to see that the photographer and the photograph isn’t as important as it once was. I’m being passed up on jobs for people who are now called “influencers,” people who buy fans or “friends,” who are instagrammers and who get hired for jobs because of how many people that follow them on social media. It’s disgusting. What about the great photographers? We’re guys who eat, sleep and breath photography. I’ve been doing this for forty years. It’s my life. There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not involved in image making. When you hear of these young kids who take photographs from their iPhones, put them on an app, and they have hundreds or thousands of friends and all of a sudden they’re considered photographers? I have a problem with that.

LEHRER: So, moving on to the David Lynch project. He’s probably my favorite artist of any medium. It’s fascinating to me that he hasn’t even made a film in ten years but he’s still discussed by every artist around. His aesthetic is eternally powerful and copied. What draws you to his aesthetic personally?

MILLER: You know, there is only one David Lynch. If you take a look back at one of the most important film ever created, Eraserhead, that was an art school project and today it’s probably one of the greatest films of all time. David is one of those people who, when you sit down and watch one of his films, some [latent emotions of yours] is going to come up. You’re going to feel something and it’s going to be powerful.

LEHRER: You project your own feelings.

MILLER: Yes, you project your own self and fears into his own films. He is a monster. I just don’t know of any other director that moves me the way that David has moved. The characters that he creates are so memorable. Iconic. And whether you like the film or not, you’re not going to forget these characters.

LEHRER: And also his films don’t need to be understood, they are experiences. Like Lost Highway, which is underrated I think, I didn’t start to think about it narratively and what it meant until several views in. It begs you to keep watching it until you understand it. Like the scene in Mulholland Drive where they go behind the diner and they see the monster. Every time I watch that movie, I want to close my eyes because I have no desire to see that monster again and every single time, I watch it.

MILLER: When I watch Blue Velvet, Frank Booth creeps me out so bad. I’ve got a freaky side to me, but he is so out there, so freaky, that he totally wigs me out every time I see him in Isabella [Rossellini]’s apartment. I mean I just don’t want to watch it, but I do! What is so scary is Lynch’s people are real. They’re out there. They’re walking the streets of Chicago, New York, LA. That’s what makes it even more upsetting. And more gripping.

LEHRER: I have a theory about why you used the characters that you did in your series and you can tell me if I’m in the ballpark or not. To me, all these characters; David Lynch himself, Cooper, the Mystery Man, Frank; They all represent or communicate something about David Lynch himself. Cooper is his more rational, deductive side. The Mystery Man is his guilt. Frank is his rage. What do you think?

MILLER: I think you nailed who these characters are. But we actually used a social media blast to find out who were David Lynch’s fan base’s favorite characters. It was a two week survey where they gathered all this information and they gave me ten names and I was able to pick seven of them to recreate. I think you’re right on when you say that those characters are absolutely different characteristics of David.

LEHRER: That’s kind of fascinating that his fanbase is so rabid that they picked the characters that are most emblematic of his creative process.

MILLER: Tomorrow night is the VIP party where we’ll be premiering the film and Saturday night is the big press production. I’m sure it’s something you’d have loved to be able to attend

LEHRER: Yeah, he has a relationship with sound and music that no director on Earth has and I’d love to see him put together a showcase of music. It sounds amazing. There was actually an article that came out yesterday in Pitchfork where they interviewed Angelo and a bunch of other musicians that have worked with him talking about how he interprets music and how he processes music into his work. David’s in-house engineer Dean Hurley was talking about Lynch hearing Kanye West’s Yeezus for the first time and how he can tell when David likes something. [David] will get a “serious death stare” and that’s how Dean knows he likes it.

MILLER: I’d love to read that. It’s in Pitchfork?

LEHRER: Yep, yesterday.

MILLER: I’ll have to check that out. He has a new album in production that’s being released this weekend, actually. I’m anxious to get ahold of that.

LEHRER: I’m just rabidly waiting for the next season of Twin Peaks. In your videos, I love seeing John in there repeat this dialogue and playing up the camp of it. I thought it really amplified the humor in David Lynch’s work, which is something that is often missing in his critical analysis. Is that all intentional?

MILLER: Well, it’s funny because we really did it as a serious homage to David. Have you seen the whole film?

LEHRER: I’ve only watched them as individual clips.

MILLER: I look forward to when you get to see the whole film which really uses John as David Lynch as the thread. It wasn’t meant to be comical. When you pay homage to someone, (I mean David is a master) you want to recreate it in his honor. Even though it might come off slightly as a parody or a little comical, both John and I wanted to go in and tilt this thing into perfection. John put so much into each one of his characters and the amount of research and detail we put into every single shot, every set, every stitch of clothing was so that we could pay a great homage to David. Really to say, ‘thank you for what you have given all of us.’ 
 

LEHRER: When you were creating this, were you in contact with David or any of the people that worked with David? Was John in contact with Kyle McLachlan, for instance?

MILLER: I sent the script to David thirteen times for his approval on all the dialogue, the sets that we were using, and the characters. We got on the phone with David just once, and one time, with Kyle. David wouldn’t have given me direction. He had a lot of trust. David had seen my homage series and was really blown away by it and when he offered me to do this film, he knew I was going to do it justice. After he gave me the approval on the dialogue, David let me run with it.

LEHRER: I can imagine him being quite curious in another great artist’s take on his work.

MILLER: David was working seven days a week, fourteen, sixteen hours a day on Twin Peaks while we were shooting. So he was so wrapped up with Twin Peaks schedule. He really didn’t have the time to obsess about our project. He loved everything though.

LEHRER: That’s great. I want to say congratulations. It’s a great series.

MILLER: Thank you so much. I really look forward to you seeing the whole piece. When you see the David Lynch part that really intertwines everything together, it’ll really come together. There’s a great story there. When John delivered the “Lord is my Shepherd” Elephant Man Speech, the crew was crying.It was such a beautiful delivery. I mean you really felt John’s heart.

LEHRER: John is such a terrific, dextrous actor. Especially in his facial expressions. What was that movie that was kind of an action movie, but better? With Clint Eastwood?

MILLER: In the Line of Fire.

LEHRER: That movie is so emblematic of how good he is. It’d be terrible without him, but he brings it this eccentric element that makes it a ‘90s action classic.

MILLER: John brings a dynamic presence regardless of the size of the role. He plays characters you don’t forget.

LEHRER: I was discussing with a friend whether Being John Malkovich could have been Being someone else, you know like Being Billy Bob Thornton. And there’s no way. It wouldn’t have worked.

MILLER: He’s got an incredible presence.

LEHRER: While I have you, I wanted to ask you about a couple other of my favorite projects of yours. I’m really into The Blood Brothers project and also the project you did with the bikers and I really feel like those series and more of your projects are almost Freudian in their ability to use imagery to examine what makes these characters tick. Like in the bikers project, we find that these guys like Harley Davidsons not because they’re the fastest or the easiest, but almost because they’re the most obnoxious and the most masculine. Are you always trying to examine how someone thinks and what makes them tick?

MILLER: Most of my projects like that explore a culture I long to be a part of: I would have loved to be a biker or a great boxer. I did another book on a bullfighter: I’ve always fantasized about being a bullfighter.

LEHRER: By that reasoning, does a part of you want to be David Lynch?

MILLER: Uhh, no I don’t think I want to be David Lynch. I think he goes non-stop. I mean I think he just turned seventy and what he just did with Twin Peaks, putting in almost 3-4 months, seven days a week. I don’t know where he finds that stamina to be able to keep on going.

LEHRER: That’s interesting though, because a lot of contemporary fine art photographers shoot people in their own lives. A lot of people are very good at it, but I really feel like that classic photographer, the one who maintains a healthy distance between him/her and his/her subjects, is missing.

MILLER: Thank you so much. It’s been a great 40 years of being able to explore the world. It has been an unbelievable way of life.


Click here to explore Playing David Lynch – each download will help support The David Lynch Foundation. text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Unholy Union: An Interview Of Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter

text by Adam Lehrer

Of all the great unions of underground music, rock and otherwise; Bowie and Eno, Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld, Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin, John Cale and Terry Riley, Sonny Sharrock and Peter Brotzzman, and so on; the union between No Wave icon, transgressive artist, and spoken word warrior Lydia Lunch and free jazz, noise, and no wave musician Weasel Walter is perhaps the most harmonious and unquestionably the unholiest. When considering their respective biographies, both full of moments of sticking the middle finger in the faces of conventional standards of taste and decency, it’s difficult to believe that these revolutionaries didn’t find each other sooner.

Lydia Lunch is the closest thing that American transgressive art has to an icon. Lydia finds herself a symbol of everything that society doesn’t want her to be: loud, intelligent, brash, lewd, angry, righteous. First moving to New York in the late ‘70s to take on spoken word, she ended up the lead singer and guitar player for seminal no wave band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (and appeared on Brian Eno’s No New York compilation alongside contemporaries Mars, DNA, and James Chance & The Contortions). The band was short-lived but influenced countless bands that would use rock instrumentation to explore chaos, atonality, and cacophony: Sonic Youth, Harry Pussy, and Magik Markers among many others. After the band split, Lydia continued making music solo and in collaboration with artists including Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Michael Gira, J.G. Thirwell, Oxbow, and all manner of sonic agitators. Her band 8-Eyed Spy followed and brought in a sense of funk to the dischord. All while these projects were happening, Lydia found herself a pivotal figure in the ‘80s New York cinematic movement, The Cinema of Transgression, that would use extreme shock value and black humor to shatter societal taboos. Lydia directed, wrote and starred in films alongside the likes of Nick Zedd and Richard Kern. Photography, collage, painting (Lydia had an exhibition last year at HOWL! Arts that surveyed her multi-media output), Lydia has engaged in all manner of media throughout her career but defines herself primarily as a poet. Her spoken word is raw and confrontational, often inciting violence, uncontrollable tears or both.

While Weasel Walter is not a poet or a visual artist, his music shares characteristics with Lydia’s output. He has employed a multitude of musical styles throughout his career but has consistently maintained a brazen disregard for the rock n’ roll and cultural status quo. Weasel started his first band The Flying Luttenbachers in Chicago in 1991. He drew upon elements of free jazz, noise, extreme metal, modern composition, and prog rock for an angular approach to dissonant sound. In the process, Weasel re-popularized the term no wave reignited interest in the ‘70s no wave bands throughout the ‘90s with his record label, UGexplode. Weasel is interested in the extremity of sound in whatever style it may come in: modern composer Iannis Xenakis, free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, death metal band Obituary, art rock luminaries The Residents, French conceptual prog rockers Magma and Black Flag all make sense in his diverse but aesthetically unified sonic tastes. He’s played in metal bands like Burmese and Lair of the Minotaur while drumming for jazz and improv gigs. He’s neither a free jazz drummer or a metal drummer, but applies his own peculiar approach to both equally and plays his ass off. Recently, Weasel has been playing in Cellular Chaos, a New York-based no wave revival band with Admiral Grey, Ceci Moss and Marc Edwards and the band’s second LP, Diamond Teeth Clench, came out over the summer. Also this summer, Weasel released Curses, a solo LP of electro-acoustic strangeness and warped beauty. Weasel’s tireless work should embarrass the herd of underachieving underground rock musicians.

Lydia and Weasel, both pivotal figures during their respective no wave eras, had been in each other’s orbits since the ‘90s, but Weasel had to hustle to gain the attention of his hero. “No, we’d run into each other over the years but she runs into hundreds of thousands of people and I was just some skinny twerp,” says Weasel.

In 2009, Weasel landed his noise metal band Burmese onto a reunion bill for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. He made an impression on Lydia. “They were amazing, they were absolutely great. And so, I took notice,” says Lydia. “You know, he was smiley and cute...I was like, “OK, buddy.” He “weaseled” his way into my existence.” Lydia had an opening for a guitar player for a one-off gig playing old music and Weasel stepped up. “What started as a one-off turned into a multi-national conglomerate,” says Weasel.

Weasel and Lydia formed the band Retrovirus along with bass player and band leader of New York noise mongers Child Abuse Tim Dahl and former Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore drummer Bob Bert. The band plays modernized numbers from Lydia’s archives: Teenage Jesus, 8-Eyed Spy, Queen of Siam, and more. Lydia also uses Weasel for spoken word projects: their project Brutal Measures finds Weasel drumming in unison with Lydia’s rhythmic verbal gymnastics.

Building on the Brutal Measures project, Weasel and Lydia will be collaborating with poetry icon and original Last Poets member Umar Bin Hassan on a project entitled No Wave Out. The project came into fruition when event producer Some Serious Business’s Susan Martin facilitated a meeting between her long-time client, Lydia, and UCLA. When UCLA skipped on the idea, Martin put NYU record engineer and subsequent Lydia Lunch fan Phil Painson in touch with Lydia. Painson had a direct line to Hassan, and eventually set up a meeting between the two poets. In No Wave Out, Weasel will be playing guitar along with Dahl, percussionist Don Babatunde, and drummer Shaun Kelly drawing upon no wave, funk, hip-hop, noise, and free jazz to create a chaotic swirl of sound all while Hassan and Lydia trade poetic philosophy and revolution. “[Lydia’s] a natural wordsmith,” says Hassan. “Once we got in the studio I knew there was something interesting there.” The No Wave Out performances will take place on November 2 and 3 at Joe’s Pub in New York.

I hung out with Lydia and Weasel at the Roxy Hotel in TriBeca to eat breakfast and talk about their various projects, art, music, and destroying society.
 

ADAM LEHRER: I hate this culture of nostalgia that we’re living in. Why are people ignoring the music of their own time despite not having been old enough to have experienced what they are nostalgic for in the first place?

Weasel Walter: The internet sort of put everything on an even keel and everyone’s too intimidated to make their way through the morass of stuff now.

LUNCH: To me it doesn’t matter, I’d rather see a fucking reunion of the Jesus Lizard than most bands now.

LEHRER: Yeah, I would too. I love David Yow. But my point is more that people are letting their lives slip by because they’re mad they’ll never see Cobain or something. It’s almost laziness to me. You can experience any music you want. It’s there for the taking.

WALTER: Most people are overwhelmed by the amount of options. I’m a music head and I have a hard time finding new shit I like.

LUNCH: That’s why I look to architecture. A lot of kids in their twenties come up and they’re like, “oh, there’s nobody in my generation.” I’m like, why don’t you look to fucking architects, chemistry or science. Why does it always have to be the lowest common denominator, which is music? But music is still the universal language, and it can be brilliant. But why does everybody have to revert to base elements? My favorite quote about architecture is that it’s “music frozen in space.”

WALTER: Your answer is: people like music.

LUNCH: Of course they do. But look,  our band Retrovirus is a retrospective because nobody heard it the first fucking time. I wouldn’t call it nostalgic though because it’s still the most brutal shit going. Well, not the most brutal: there’s also Cellular Chaos and Child Abuse but, I mean, it’s still pretty fucking brutal. Everything Weasel and I do brings a sense of urgency and brutality to the stage.

WALTER: We don’t do any trigger warnings before we start.

LUNCH: Yeah, when there’s a trigger warning I’ve already shot you in the face. Warning, my fingers on the trigger. No warnings.

LEHRER: So, did you two meet when you moved to New York in 2009 or have you known each other longer?

LUNCH: He met me in his dreams when he was fourteen. I really noticed him was when he was in Burmese and forced their way onto a Teenage Jesus reunion. I was very impressed by that band.

WALTER: There was a job opening and I stepped forward.

LEHRER: And that evolved into all of these projects: Retrovirus, Brutal Measures, No Wave Out, and so forth?

LUNCH: We’ve gone to Colombia, Brazil, Australia and mainly Europe. I would like to do more shows in America but it’s different. I mean, it’s hard enough for me to just get solo spoken word shows. We don’t even have managers. I book most the shows. Weasel is so unappreciated, and underpaid. I want to show him off.


LEHRER: How did the No Wave Out project with Umar Hassan come into fruition?
 

LUNCH: I met this really straight looking black guy [Phil Painson] (and I don’t have many black fans, I don’t know why, being half black myself) and he’s like “hey, you’re Lydia, Teenage Jesus is the greatest band, I’m an engineer at NYU.” I just told him the concept and he goes, “I’ve got two unreleased albums by Umar Bin Hassan.” I thought he was fucking shitting me, I didn’t know that there were any Last Poets still alive. So, after many meetings with him, we set up a meeting with Umar. Now, imagine somebody goes to vet me...

LEHRER: Yeah, things will come up in the background check (laughs).

LUNCH: Who knows what they’re going to see. [the 1988 Richard Kern-directed film is a prime example of the New York cinematic movement entitled The Cinema of Transgression of which Lydia is often considered a muse to-ed] Fingered? But, I met with Umar and explained how influential he was to me. They were the first, and best, protest artists. How’s he going to fucking know what I do? It’s off his radar. I cracked a joke and won him over. We were just talking and he said, “yeah, I’ve been married three times and I got ten kids,” and I said, “well you did that wrong, son, didn’t you.” And he goes, “yeah, I did” and I said, “have you ever been with a white woman” and he said, “no,” and I said, “well you’re not going to be with none tonight ‘cause you’re looking at Biggie motherfucking Smalls” and he laughed and by then, he got me. I had to break down my ghetto into his. We started swapping stories. Then the day after my opening that you saw at HOWL! I had slept twelve hours. I usually sleep four so I was sick with sleep and Tim and Weasel had slept four hours after doing acid so we were on the reverse schedule and they were like, “you’re going into the studio with Umar.” It was an instantaneous, improvisational, spoken word throw-down.

LEHRER: I read that you are trying to boil everything down to the spoken word.

LUNCH: It began and will end with the spoken word. It’s not boiling down, it’s all spoken word to me.

LEHRER: It’s a volatile political and sociological era. Do you think that the spoken word is the most direct way to express yourself in that sort of time period?

LUNCH: Just go back and listen to (Lydia’s 1989 spoken word performance) Conspiracy of Women twenty-five years ago. I’ve been talking about this shit since I opened my mouth. My first big solo spoken word show, called The Gun is Loaded, which was under Reagan, would have been considered treason today. But the names remain the same, the fucking problem is the same. Hence, why Last Poets are still valid. Hence, why spoken word is valid.

LEHRER: I feel like people who criticized your work most likely were just uncomfortable with feeling emotion on some level.

LUNCH: Or intelligence.

LEHRER: Or intelligence. Your art is very raw and emotional.

LUNCH: It was never meant to be liked. Those that originally came or still come to the spoken word show didn’t know whether I was yelling at them or yelling for them. And it was only two years ago that Weasel and I did a show that I actually had to slap somebody in the face. Two guys actually, which hadn’t happened in decades. They were drunk as usual; it didn’t help that one was a Senator.

LEHRER: Weasel, your music has always been narrative but it’s wordless, usually. It approaches narrative through sonic intensity. How is it different for you composing music to be laid under spoken word poetry?

WALTER: I’ve worked in a lot of bands but the approach is almost always [musical approach conceived by late free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman] harmolodic. It’s about rhythm. It’s abstract music that has a pulse. I’m the un-funkiest white man in music but there’s a duality. For example, Tim Dahl, the bass player, is influenced by funk and R&B and it’s an intersection between the melodic section and these No Wave elements.

LUNCH: Also, I don’t like rhythm under my spoken word because my voice is rhythm. So, for instance, when we do our “duolet,” as I call it, or Brutal Measures, Weasel isn’t drumming under my spoken word because he doesn’t know what I’m going to say (not that it’s all improvising because a lot of it is orchestrated). I don’t need music under my solo spoken word. When I’m doing my spoken word, the less music under it the better because my rhythm drives itself.

WALTER: The No Wave Out thing, so far, has just been improvised. We’re all improvisors. I think there’s a unique tension you can achieve by really reacting to the moment.

LUNCH: I know, with my stuff, less is more. He’s a maximalist, I’m a minimalist. So, I like to surround my minimality with maximum impact. When we do Brutal Measures, a lot of my spoken word is much more on the down low. It’s quieter. He provides machine-gunning and I bathe your bruises with my tongue.

LEHRER: Will No Wave Out release music?

WALTER: [No Wave Out] was supposed to be a whole album but it doesn’t have a home yet…It’s sort of in production.

LUNCH: I would rather have an album recorded live. I think live is where it’s at. Do you have the Retrovirus stuff?

LEHRER: I have a few of the tracks on my computer. I have tons on my phone right here: 8-Eyed Spy, Teenage Jesus, that solo album you did with Marc Hurtado.

LUNCH: Oh, I’m glad you have that Hurtado, it only came out in Spain. I composed that whole album, people don’t realize I do some composition. Hurtado just dumped like a hundred industrial samples. It’s composition appropriate for the words that need to be said. He’s a compositional and mathematical genius. Photographs and compositions are the same. Some women knit, I make a fucking montage. I have no idea how I do it. But I do it really quickly...any of those tracks are composed in like an hour. And those photographs are composed in five or ten minutes. His shit is composed by an algebraic compositional mapping. I saw some of the sheet music and just wanted to tattoo my whole body in it so one day I could uncode it. This is what’s interesting about working with Weasel. We’re completely in synch together but we have such completely opposite methodologies.

LEHRER: That’s what I find so compelling. Teenage Jesus was one of the first no wave bands, or whatever they were calling no wave then, and then they labeled Weasel and The Flying Luttenbachers “new no wave” or “Chicago new wave.” But Teenage Jesus and the original no wave bands all sounded raw and falling apart almost, where as Weasel’s work with The Luttenbachers and other ‘90s no wave bands like U.S. Maple all sound quite composed and angular.

LUNCH: Last year, Weasel compiled the ultimate Teenage Jesus live LP, and Nicolas Jaar released it [on his label Other People]. It’s amazing. Weasel was sitting on his favorite Teenage Jesus compositions. Teenage Jesus was quite different because I didn’t compose much of the music in most of my bands. Other than Weasel, nobody can play that shit. A lot of guitarists have tried, but there’s basically no set tuning to Teenage Jesus so it’s difficult to try to figure out what I’m doing. We practiced every day for years but the only notes I knew were hand-written, the only chords I knew go around your fucking neck. And then we did one show last year, just to squeeze all the money out of the record label. Weasel played bass and he broke the bass string. Tim Dahl played drums and here’s a rhythm master and you’re trying to teach him beats that make no sense. It was very difficult for a really accomplished musician, like Tim, to understand. It’s not about music, it’s about brutality.



LEHRER: Even for you, Weasel, I always found your most brutal shit always had some sort of progression or structure to it.

WALTER: I can see the structure in [Teenage Jesus]. It is concise and it’s minimal, but it’s also very shrewd because it’s more sophisticated than people think it is. And there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. You can’t make anyone play that material and get it right. There’s certain pauses in that music that aren’t metric. In some ways, It’s really irrational music. it’s got this asymmetry. It’s weird, to me it’s got this duality - the most nihilistic music ever, but totally positive. It’s extreme black humor where it’s so unfunny that it becomes hysterical.

LUNCH: When I did the Teenage Jesus reunion, the metal dudes were like, ‘Woah we love your guitar.’ I just started laughing in their faces. I know you do. It’s amazing that these serious dudes, like Glenn Branca, who I was never friends with or a fan of, dropped to his fucking knees. I’m like, get off your knees. Please.

LEHRER: I just saw him do Ascension and he got all these kids to play with him. Like famous modern underground rock kids.

LUNCH: Was it good?

LEHRER: I think the setting made it pretty interesting. It was at the Masonic temple, so it sounded thick.

LUNCH: How many kids? Dozens?

LEHRER: I think like 12 and some of the musicians I liked, some I didn’t like. The kid from Liturgy was there.  I can’t stand that band. And some other kids, who were pretty good.

LUNCH: (laughs) Hunter’s (Hendrix, of Liturgy) poetry is really good, I will say. I gave him some spoken word lessons. The writing was really good though. It was very surrealistic.

LEHRER: Really? That’s interesting. I didn’t hate hate the first Liturgy album, I hated the second one that came out where it sounds like early 2000s rap metal.

WALTER: What Liturgy stands for goes against the original black metal aesthetic enough that purists despise it. The music is neither here nor there.

LUNCH: I don’t give a shit about his music. His words were good. We actually did a show for Brutal Measures in Hunter’s backyard. He paid us. It’s the only way we’d do it.

LEHRER: I don’t know why I find their music, in particular, so jarring. Because some hipster black metal bands, like Deafheaven, I like.

WALTER: I think metal should be made by people with bald heads or long hair. There’s nothing in the middle for me, really.

LEHRER: Weasel, I was wondering if you were into [Missouri-based musician Adam Kalmbach applies 20th Century composition to black metal noise in his project-ed] Jute Gyte?

WALTER: Yeah, I like them. I don’t listen to it that often because it’s so clinical. It has elements of modern composition. I’m too insular to get into the politics of black metal. ‘90s death metal bands sound like classic rock to me.
 

LUNCH: I just produced Pissed Jeans’ new album. The vocalist asked me to produce it. It was really fun. It’s good, it’s chunky, it’s fat free. The lyrics are fucking hilarious. The topics are outrageous.

WALTER: I think Teenage Jesus was one of the original death metal bands. I never stated it that way, but thinking about it, the whole aesthetic is there.

LEHRER: Teenage Jesus sort of has an association with downtown New York art. Were you are aware of the association?

LUNCH: I didn’t give a shit about the art going on at the time. I hated most of it. I came to New York to do spoken word.

LEHRER: I’m always interested in the stories that journalists attach to certain movements and art. They’re sometimes so different than what could have actually been contextualized by the people making the art.

LUNCH: With Teenage Jesus, someone gave me a broken guitar. We started writing the fucking songs. I found an abandoned building. I started living there and we started practicing until it was tight as possible. Then we got a few shows. Then we got a place on Delancey. And then I found a way to take it to England. I was very focused and it was never more than 20 people at any fucking gig. Why would there be? This music would drive people insane. People would run out before our short sets would end.

WALTER: The shortest set was seven minutes. The average was about 10.

LUNCH: Why do you need more?

LEHRER: I go see Swans every time they play around here and the first hour is like, “fuck this music is so good,” and then the next hour, you’re like “damn my legs hurt, my shoes hurt,  my boots are fucking dirty. People are stepping on my feet.”

LUNCH: We never played more than like 15 minutes. Brutal Measures, we don’t even time it. It’s got to be more than 20, but I don’t like to do more than that. Spoken word shows were ten minutes. Ten minutes back and forth.

WALTER: We would play most of the songs and it was less than 20 minutes.

LEHRER: I think brevity in general is one of the things that may be has pushed mass audiences away from rock’n’roll. I mean I do have an affinity for electronic music and I think it’s just because you go to rock shows now, it’s like 50 disaffected kids staring into space, nodding their heads, feeling self-conscious. Then, you go to an electronic show, it’s kids taking drugs and losing their shit. It’s way more rock’n’roll in some ways, at this point.

WALTER: For most people, a gig is an excuse for other things: Sex, drugs. That’s what rock’n’roll used to be. An excuse to do that stuff for most people.

LUNCH: I prefer people sit down. I’ll tell you why. If the words are important: fucking listen. I want them to be in the room, focused in. When I do a solo show that has visuals and music, there’s this room you can disappear into. I’m looking at you, you’re looking at me. We’re having a very direct and intimate experience. I like to look into everybody’s fucking eyes at my shows.

WALTER: I never look at the audience.

LUNCH: You don’t even look at me. Unless I’m in your face.

WALTER: I’m focusing.

LUNCH: He’s gotta do his own shit. It’s so elaborate, what he’s doing. I have to go deep and go in. I’m more about penetration. If you’re there, you’re gonna get impregnated and it’s gonna be from my dick. That’s my tongue.

WALTER: That’s why she gets the big money.

LEHRER: Lydia, You lived in Berlin in the 80s?

LUNCH: I didn’t live there.

LEHRER: You just hung out there?

LUNCH: People think I lived in Berlin. People wanted me to live in Berlin. I would just go there.

LEHRER: You were hanging out with Nick Cave then too?

LUNCH: I saved him from OD’ing a few times, so yeah I guess that’s hanging out.

LEHRER: It’s awful what happened to his kid.

LUNCH: It’s awful what happened to his career. He became mega rich by selling ballads.

LEHRER: I still think he has a couple beautiful songs here and there.

LUNCH: He’s another one who conned the cons. I don’t know how he did it. I was thrilled to be on tour with The Birthday Party. They were absolutely one of the best bands ever. I loved the lyrics. I didn’t love The Bad Seeds. In his case, he had like three good ideas and he rode them forever. People release too many albums with the same musicians. I’m a conceptualist, he’s not. Weasel is a conceptualist too. One of his latest albums, Curses, is so different than anything else he ever did. It’s on his bandcamp, you can hear it.

WEASEL: Curses is this electro-acoustic piece.

LUNCH: It’s one of my favorites. Women really like it.

WEASEL: A lot of my music is not very feminine (laughs).

LUNCH: The album is very witchy. Women really respond to it. It’s such a different elemental force that he’s dealing with. This is one of our connective tissues. Whether it’s just the intensity, the focus, or that we’re two fucking weirdos that are outside of everything and don’t give a shit about anything.

LEHRER: Both of you have been involved in so many projects, so many different amazing types of art, just as a general piece of advice, what keeps you excited and reinvigorated to continue making more?

LUNCH: Well we cry a lot. You should hear our cry fests. Last night I was having one. We’re stubborn. It’s in our blood. I’m prolific. He’s far more prolific. I can relax more than he can. I think I am my best creation. I don’t need to be constantly working on projects, but I always am. The burning in the blood overrides everything else.

WALTER: I’m always trying to articulate things that I think are lesser in quantity in culture, especially if it’s elemental. I don’t like to make redundant art. That’s why I was never in a straight death metal band, for example, because there’s like 8 million of them. I think sometimes in certain time periods, there’s a need for me as a fan and listener for certain kinds of music that people are making. That motivation is almost like a negative motivation. What is everyone not doing? I need to do that.

LEHRER: So not out of a contrarian sense, but that something is missing.

LUNCH: It’s contrarian.

WALTER: It’s two sides of a coin. A lot of my bands were conceived because I hate what’s going on and basically I want to destroy it with my own voice. I’m always trying to articulate my disdain.

LUNCH: I’m trying to express the condition I’m in and what I’m trying to get over. I’m not just lashing out at the universe. My priority in creating anything is to get over whatever the obsession is now, to try to get to the next place of pure existence. I know other people are suffering the same insanity.


Purchase tickets for No Wave Out here. Text and photographs by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


A Different Vision On Fashion Photography: An Interview Of The Legendary Photographer Peter Lindbergh

When you think of famous fashion photographers, a few names come to mind: Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Mario Testino and perhaps Herb Ritts. There is another name, however, that is just as iconic: Peter Lindbergh. You could say that Lindbergh’s work ushered in a new aesthetic paradigm for the pages of glossy magazines. His images of Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Karen Alexander, among others, turned them into supermodels. Coinciding with his major retrospective at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, Taschen has recently released a major career monograph with over four hundred photographs from his oeuvre. We caught up with Lindbergh at a recent signing in Beverly Hills to discuss his work and influences.  

OLIVER KUPPER: When and why did you first pick up a camera?

PETER LINDBERGH: I had an interview two or three weeks ago, with somebody in Germany. They said, be truthful with us, because we know why people pick up cameras: to get close to the girls. I said that I was very interested in photography. I was an artist and then I stopped doing art, specifically paintings. I didn’t feel like it was the right thing. And then I became a photographer. That was very accidental in a way. And I felt very fast that it was a wonderful thing.

KUPPER: So you fell in love with it.

LINDBERGH: I felt that that, wow, that was the right thing. I had to stop art to see what I wanted to do...I could have been a florist or a baker or something but I wasn’t.

KUPPER: Where in Germany was this?

LINDBERGH: Dusseldorf

KUPPER: And this was shortly after the war?

LINDBERGH: No, it was really late actually. 1973.

KUPPER: You were working alongside a lot of really big photographers, like Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin. What were your reflections of them and what were their reflections of you?

Lindbergh: It wasn’t so much that I knew them, I knew of their work.The first professional job I did was for Stern Magazine, which Helmut and Guy Bourdin was a part of. That was a big portfolio. Something that happened twice a year like what LIFE magazine does for fashion twice a year. And that was something, that was very fun.

KUPPER: What were some of the most important lessons that you learned when you were first taking pictures and lessons that you still carry with you, lessons that you left behind?

Lindbergh: Not much. I did a lot of really odd things. I was always excited. But looking back today for the first 5 years, whatever I did wasn’t really something to talk about. After Stern, everything started. I did that portfolio. It was striking. From there, I got a lot of calls. From people like Marie Claire, who said come to Paris, we’ll give you a contract just for that one story.  

KUPPER: Were you bored of the fashion and the glamour that was going on?

LINDBERGH: No, at that time I had no real idea of what was going on in the fashion world. I am bored of the glamour today. You see the Oscars today and they walk down the carpet and sometimes they can’t, they can’t even walk in those heels -- I should shut my mouth.

KUPPER: No it’s okay, I think people should talk back about the industry.

LINDBERGH: You have twelve to fifteen of the favorite actors in the world. They come and walk the red carpet. You know what I would say if I came to the Oscars and I had done a wonderful movie for 12 months or so, and as I walked up the red carpet, someone asked, ‘Wow, what is your jacket?’ I would say, ‘Fuck off.’  That’s what I would say. They’re obsessed. With fashion, there is too much money. So much success.

KUPPER: Some of your earliest photographs especially with Vogue, they were really stripped down. You weren’t using stylists or anything like that.

LINDBERGH: Yeah. A lot of kids, they come for the show and they think, ‘Oh fashion, fashion!’ I was interested in doing something. In creating pictures.

KUPPER: There’s a cinematic quality to your work. Fritz Lang was a big inspiration. There’s a very industrial inspiring look that goes goes against the grain of typical, glossy fashion.

LINDBERGH: I come from a place that is totally industrial and heavy industry.

KUPPER: There’s also Germanic heritage. But you also blend a lot of American influences too, like Sci-Fi and aliens. You mix these interesting worlds.

LINDBERGH: How that came up, it started in 1990. I did a story with Helena Christensen and the martian for Vogue. And then all these super models popped up in my face and I had to follow that trajectory. Then in 2000, I wanted to do more photography like that. A lot of people think my work is all about the celebrities. And they all talk about the celebrities, no? I like celebrities, but only if they have something to say. Bradley Cooper is one of the most interesting men and he is my friend, but they are not all like that.

KUPPER: There’s a closeness in your photographs, an intimacy between you and your subjects. Can you describe where that comes from? Is that something that you project?

LINDBERGH: That contact is a beautiful thing.  When that is your goal, a lot of beautiful things happen. You suddenly find a new friend. It’s strange. It’s something so new.

KUPPER: So How did you come in contact with Vogue? How did that first shoot come about? I know they turned it down at first.

LINDBERGH: American Vogue did turn me down. When I came to American Vogue, the problem was they they thought I had a weird way of shooting and the editor at the time had a different aesthetic. They wanted me to shoot models that I had no relationship to. I had shot those famous pictures of the models on the beach and British Vogue picked up the story months later. When Anna Wintour came to American Vogue, everything changed and I worked with them a lot more. And that famous photo was in the 100 Years Of Vogue issue that came out four years later. They said that it was the most important photo of the decade.

KUPPER: Did you know that they would become such huge icons?

LINDBERGH: No, not at all. Because that was the easiest two days on the beach in Santa Monica and I was thinking I was in heaven because that was what I wanted to do.

KUPPER: Do you see your influence on photography today?

LINDBERGH: Not as much as people say. A lot of photographers I see and like, but I don’t think they go really do good work.

KUPPER: Who are some photographers today that you appreciate?

LINDBERGH: Bruce Weber is really good, but he is from the old school. I also really like Tim Walker.

KUPPER: Would you explain your connection to Van Gogh?

LINDBERGH: When I was in art school in Berlin, they wanted you to choose in the first two semesters to study someone in your medium for your major. He just impressed me very much. He has enormous power in his paintings and portraits.

KUPPER: And you still have a studio in Arles?

LINDBERGH: I went to Arles from Berlin hitchhiking. I went to school there. And I still go back today. I have a house there. My son got married there. It is a really important place for me.

KUPPER: One last question, What makes a photograph iconic to you?

LINDBERGH: The time. The time.


You can purchase Peter Lindbergh's new Taschen monograph here. A Different Vision On Fashion Photography will be on view until February 12, 2017 at Kunsthal Rotterdam in Amsterdam. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photographs by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Deviant Funnies: A Postcoital Interview Of Underground Comic Artist and Hip Hop Historian Ed Piskor

text by Audra Wist

 

Something about returning to my hometown of Pittsburgh always makes me really horny. One night, after Tinder-ing for awhile I came across a dude named Ed - profile picture was slick and mysterious, black and white, him in a Gucci bucket hat, sunglasses, and a Public Enemy hoodie. Swiped right. This was not a typical Pittsburgh guy. Why not? The mystery man with great style turned out to be Ed Piskor. We matched and met up that night. He answered the door in his pajamas which I thought was funny given our assumed future activities and we proceeded to give each other little gifts. I gave him a copy of the Autre LOVE issue and he gave me an old issue of FOX magazine where one of early comics was in, super babe Janine Lindemulder was on the cover (the iconic tattooed nurse blondie on Blink-182’s Enema of the State album cover). Yeah, I liked Ed already. He is a Pittsburgher to his core and wildly successful, his new series Hip Hop Family Tree earning him three Eisner Award nominations and numerous other accolades and shout-outs from hip hop greats like DJ Ready Red and DMC as well as TIME and Boing Boing. His comic heavyweight status aside, I wanted to talk with him about sex because of his early involvement in porno mags and because during our evening rendezvous, he was incredibly sexy: kind, funny, unafraid - a real cool guy. He was on, fully himself, but no fluff or pretension. I would agree with Ms. Lehoczky at NPR who wrote about Ed’s work saying “he’s more realer without even trying.”

Audra Wist: I wanted to open with the fact that we met on Tinder and we had this deep love for old things, like newsstand stuff - erotica, comics, music, magazines, records - print media. I liked you from gate because of that. You were involved in both porn and print media. And you did “Eddie P’s Calvacade of Perversion,” right?

Ed Piskor: Yeah.

Wist: How long did you do that with that magazine? Or why porn, in general?

Piskor: When I was underage I was commissioned to do illustrations in porn mags. They never asked my name. I had this reputation that got started, a lot of people thought I was a grizzled old hippie because the style was influenced by Bay Area underground comics of the 60s. And at that time, Robert Crumb was my biggest influence ever. So, in conversation when they found out I was 17 it was big trouble. From there, very randomly, this lady who has had this whole career in copywriting porn mags - she wrote for the Berkeley Barb and worked for different porno mags based out of SF. She put together a comic just about her life and career and she commissioned maybe 5 guys and girls to illustrate her stories, so I did that. And from there, she was the connection to FOX magazine and other weird porn related stuff. I didn’t do that many strips - I did maybe a handful. A couple years later, I did one panel of cartoons for Belladonna on her website. And I did that for a couple months and it yielded 60 or 90 different cartoons. It was super fun to begin with but after awhile it got real redundant because she’s really well-known for taking different instruments into her ass.

Wist: Right, yes, I remember you saying that you ran out of stuff to put in her butt.

Piskor: Yeah, it’s the truth. I couldn’t think of anything else. I could be remembering this wrong, but I’m pretty sure I drew a cartoon with the kitchen sink in her ass and that was the joke of it.

Wist: I really love that.

Piskor: So ridiculous. And you have to think too, this was a 23-year-old boy making these things. My own sexuality was pretty immature which lends well to doing humorist stuff because a young person’s sexuality is nothing but folly for years. You gotta get your 10,000 hours of experience in fuckin’ before it’s no joke anymore.

Wist: It’s so true! That’s why I try not to fuck around with anyone under the age of 28. That’s my cutoff. Otherwise, it gets dismal. Have more sexual experiences! The more the better.

Piskor: Certainly, I agree. And as creative people, our lives are sorta built on experience. Your work will become tremendously uninteresting, an insular vision, if it doesn’t get expanded upon by outside sources. A lot of art is about the decisions that you make and sometimes you need weird stuff put in your path and figure out how to navigate around that stuff to learn about yourself.

Wist: And speaking to creative people, I find that if you are unapologetic in your work that it has to translate over to how you are in bed, right? One of the things that struck me about you was how open, comfortable, and non-judgmental you were about talking about sex, which is rare to me even though it’s my bag.

Piskor: Is it a question about being non-judgmental?

Wist: No, I guess I’m asking if you agree that there is a connection between how people conduct their sex lives and the quality of their work.

Piskor: In our case, we did not know each other very long, so I had to let you know that it was a cozy situation. I mean seriously, at any moment, if you ain’t feeling shit, there would absolutely be no hard feelings. Things are all good. And if you’re comfortable in your mind and I’m comfortable in my mind, then we’re probably going to have a pretty awesome time.

Wist: It’s so fucking true. And this whole pick-up artist thing and “negging” - have you heard about this?

Piskor: Oh, yeah. You know, after I did the porno stuff I did a book about computer hacking [Wizzywig] and a big part of computer hacking is something called “social engineering” which is the idea of verbally getting what you need from others. It’s way faster for me to talk to you and get you to give me your password then it is for me to use some computer code to get it. So, a subset of this social engineering thing is that pick-up artist stuff. I saw this stuff in the 90s. All the dudes that are famous now were on hacker bulletin boards when I was in high school. So, yes, I am familiar but I do not employ it. I just can’t put that much thought into it. These dudes are fully invested.

Wist: I’m now thinking about some of the people you were interested in growing up like R. Crumb and you worked with Harvey Pekar, kind of sexual stuff, when you were pretty young, right?

Piskor: Yeah, 21.



Wist: Were they formative for you, maybe not just in thinking about sex, but formative for you in talking openly and being a confident person? R. Crumb seems like the binder of sex, outlandishness, grotesque, honest - all those things.

Piskor: Yeah, he was a big motivator for me, the idea of being real. Another big influence would be John Waters. I’m a big devotee of his films.

Wist: I was going to ask you that, but I think we talked about him before.

Piskor: Yeah, and it’s about being unapologetic in your tastes which is becoming exceedingly rare because people do filter things through different kinds of social lenses. You have to develop a certain sophistication of taste to understand it. Like if you’re knee-jerk about it, then it’s hopeless. We don’t even need to have that debate. You’re going to see things one way and be resistant to opening up your mind more. So, yeah, Crumb… John Waters, Hugh Hefner, Russ Meyer. And then you get into Richard Kern, Lydia Lunch.

Wist: Yeah, I’m a big fan of Lydia Lunch. I got to perform with her this past February and she was great.

Piskor: Oh cool, what for?

Wist: Actually, for this magazine. It was the release party. And I didn’t know she was going to be on the bill until a couple days beforehand and she’s obviously an influence. I read this eleven-page document on sexiness, kinda cutting and charged and so I got really nervous, like oh fuck, what if Lydia Lunch thinks I’m copping her shit. I had all these weird fantasies about her hating me and then I was just like wait, that’s what it’s all about.

Piskor: It’s always scary. I’m very resistant to meeting my heroes because I would be heartbroken if they treated me like an asshole. That’d be a tough pill. So, I stay aloof. The best-case scenario would be if they came to say hi to me. It changes the dynamic.

Wist: Yeah, I remember emailing Kembra Pfahler of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black gushing to her how I thought she was so great and she said something so profound, she said “if and when we ever meet, you will be pleasantly disappointed to find out that I’m exactly like you.” I thought that was fucking genius. Can you talk a bit about your education as an artist?

Piskor: I went to art school for one year and then I was like oh, I have to pay these student loans back? I immediately got this square job at a call center and all of my superiors were such dumb people that it made me sick every day. And I was like okay man, I just gotta make a bunch of cash, put it all towards these loans and get the hell outta here.

Wist: The same thing happened to me after undergrad. I was doing domme already but still a little uncertain about it being kind of a lone wolf in Pittsburgh, and so I got this job at this floral warehouse down in the strip district to make ends meet. I woke up at like 4AM to go work with a bunch of yinzer dudes. Imagine that scene. It was fucked up. They said stupid shit to me. I learned a lot about flowers which was cool, but it was bad. And one day I was just like fuck this forever.

Piskor: As a creative person, you have to make that call. You have to be able to gamble on yourself at a certain point. You gotta gamble on yourself when you’re younger because you have a lot of fire, a lot of energy at your disposal so you can work on things all day if it’s required. You have to make that call. It’ll make you happier in the long run. At least you took the shot.

Wist: I was gonna ask you this and it’s maybe a bit of a tangential question and also selfish of me because I have very nostalgic romantic feelings about Pittsburgh but you're arguably the most successful creative person from Pittsburgh other than maybe Wiz Khalifa. So, why did you stay in Pittsburgh? It seems to fit in with that hacker mentality you mentioned with Wizzywig.

Piskor: I have a young sister who is fifteen who I adore and I want to be a good role model for. I have a niece who’s a little baby. If they hated me or something, I would leave tomorrow. But also, there is a hacker element to it because it’s so cheap to live here. I make Los Angeles money or New York money and I live in a place that has a way cheaper cost of living. I can live real nice and comfortable. In order for me to do the kind of work that I do, it takes a lot of time and time is money. My biggest stressors are purely self-induced because it’s about the work. Comics are like a puzzle: you try to figure out the best way to accomplish this puzzle and create each page and I’m very hard on myself, as most self-employed are. You have to be objective and tough on yourself because no one else is going to. No one is forcing you to do what you do. So, you have to be on top of your game. And if you had that plus rent or a mortgage or whatever, I’m not sure if you could do the best work.

Wist: I want to talk about Hip Hop Family Tree. First of all, congratulations - it’s so successful and you were just nominated for three Eisner awards.

Piskor: Yeah, yeah, thank you. It’s a cool thing, I can’t deny it. Back in 2015, it was my New Year’s Resolution to accept compliments. So, thank you very much. I think the big goal is to make enough cash to see a head shrinker and take care of some of those sticking points. Like Ed, man, you can relax. You might shave a couple years off your life if you’d stop being such an intense motherfucker. Help me address my intellectual small penis complex or whatever.

Wist: You are the best. You’re like a contemporary feminist icon, poster boy, at least for me. It’s really great to hear you say all these things.

Piskor: I didn’t say it in the context of us being butt naked, but I was thinking we’ll probably be cool forever. Like I don’t doubt that we’ll be like 50 years old and I’ll be out in LA and we’ll be kicking it. Why would that not happen? You have to nurture those kinds of personalities that operate at that level. Everyone I try to be around is operating at a pretty intense level and our vocations are different but there are abstract ideas that can be used for my own shit, maybe for your own shit, and it increases the breadth of possibility just as a person. I definitely don’t doubt that we’ll be homies for the foreseeable future. It’s very nice - a pleasure to meet ya! And I’m super proud to be a notch on your belt.

Wist: You are sweet. And now you have this great sell for future women! You can say look, I’m such a great lay, look at this girl who fucked me and had all this nice stuff to say about it.

Piskor: Audra, if you keep saying it, I’m gonna believe it.


Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree Hip Hop Family Tree 1983-1985 Gift Box Set is available now. Text, interview and photographs by Audra Wist. This interview has been condensed and edited. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Courageous Writing For IRL Cowards: A G-chat Interview Of Clancy Martin By Matthew Binder

photograph by Barrett Emke

In 2012, shortly before I lost my mind and committed myself to writing fiction, I was sitting at a pal’s apartment in San Diego, waiting on him to shower and ready himself for a night out, when I picked up a copy of the Vice fiction issue. I flipped through the magazine’s pages looking for something of interest. A story titled “Whores I Have Loved” immediately resonated with me. I understood the sentiment completely. I read with ferocious curiosity as the writer sermonized on the dangers of falling in love with prostitutes in locations foreign and remote. Prior to reading the piece, I didn’t think it possible for a work to exist that was so honest, tender, and vulnerable about a subject so fraught with moral pitfalls.

The next day I ordered the writer’s debut novel, How to Sell, and read it over a weekend. The Monday following, I sent him some sort of hysterical, fanboy email. For whatever reason, he responded, encouraging further correspondence. Over the next couple years, I forced upon him countless drafts of various manuscripts I’d scribbled out. He continued to be inordinately kind to me.

Now I have my own novel, High in the Streets, published. This has somehow granted me license to make further demands of my unknowing mentor’s time. When the opportunity to chat with him about writing and life for Autre Magazine arrived, I jumped at the chance.

This G-chat conversation occurred for me at 2:00am on July 19, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary, my new home, as of last week (long story). Clancy Martin was typing away in the comfort of his home office in Kansas City, at the much more reasonable hour of 6:00pm.

MATTHEW BINDER: Thank you for taking the time to do this with me.

CLANCY MARTIN: My pleasure, sir. Thank you!

BINDER: I don’t have any specific format to work from. I figure we can just fire off some questions at each other and have a dialogue.

MARTIN: Sounds good, brother M. I'll let you lead.

BINDER: I read Amie’s book on the plane the other day. It’s fantastic. When I finished, I thought to myself, wow, Clancy and Amie (Barrodale) must really benefit from having each other to share their work with.

MARTIN: We do. We also have similar styles, as you may have noticed. She wrote some of the best sentences in Bad Sex. Literally wrote them. I think I helped some with You Are Having a Good Time. Especially in encouraging her not to give up on stories that I could see were terrific, or not killing a story that was already great. It’s very helpful to us that we share an aesthetic. We tend to like the same writers. Though she’s much broader in her taste than I am. We both loved High in the Streets immediately. I rarely like living writers, sigh. I’m getting old.

BINDER: That’s really fantastic to hear, thank you.

MARTIN: So, what’s your new novel about? Will it include a setting in Budapest, I hope? Although of course the terrific Garth Greenwell, a friend of ours, has cornered the market on Eastern Europe lately....

BINDER: The novel I’m writing now actually has nothing to do with Budapest. It takes place in the near future, maybe 2030, and it’s about a doctor who gets displaced by technology. 

MARTIN: Oh yes, I remember you mentioning something about that. I like that idea. In part because it is inevitable, and in part because I teach a class called Money, Medicine, and Morals, and it would be nice to have a cool novel to use in the class. Don’t make it x-rated so that I can use it.

BINDER: I was going through some of our old correspondence today. Seems I’ve been harassing you since 2012. In one early email I sent, I explained that it was early in the morning and that I was writing from the airport on my way to break up an engagement. Well, I'll tell you how the story ends. I did end up breaking up an engagement, moved across the country, experienced the most life-affirming/painful six months of my life, then she left me for an orthopedic surgeon, whom she married and now has kids with. I believe they moved to Alaska.

My question is, why have you put up with all my nonsense over the years?

MARTIN: Ha! I could see your talent. Plus you’re a genuinely likable guy. Plus, most importantly maybe, we share this belief that the best stories are ruthlessly honest, in some way or another. We try our best to be fearless in our stories. For me, it’s because I’m so cowardly in real life. The Wizard of Oz always made me cringe when I was a kid, not just because the munchkins were so creepy, but because I knew, in my heart, that I was the cowardly lion, but didn’t want to admit it.

BINDER: The first thing I read of yours was in Vice. It was called something like All the Whores I've Loved Before. It was the most honest and brave thing I’d read from a contemporary writer. I wasn’t even writing yet, but I was totally moved by it and so I contacted you.

MARTIN: That’s an example of a story that is entirely invented that nevertheless manages to try to tell the truth. It got me into a lot of trouble with my exes, because they assumed it was true, and not a word of it was. But there was truth it it...I know what it means to start to fall in love with someone whom you’ve paid to have sex with you. It’s a strange mysterious thing. I remember a woman from many years ago, in Mexico, when I was about 29. There was something.

BINDER: I’ve written two manuscripts and am now working on a third. Every time I do this, I drop everything: jobs, girlfriends, etc. But you have a totally full life: wife, kids, you’re an esteemed professor. When do you find the time?

MARTIN: Well, I drop everything, too, except my family and my teaching. I drop pretty much all of my other writing. It’s one of the nice things about being a professor. You are paid to write. If I write four to six hours a day, five days a week, I can usually get some real work done. Not always, but usually. And I have time for that.

BINDER: I drop everything and still don’t commit nearly that much time to the writing. I don’t have it in me. I’m amazed if I can be alone with my computer for three hours. Most of that time I’m distracted by playing guitar, or eating, or reading about sports.

MARTIN: Once I start it’s very hard for me to get up. I don’t know why, but I find it easy to sit at the computer, writing, for long stretches. Bodily laziness I suppose. But if I get distracted by something, I have trouble getting back to it, and like all of us, sometimes I have trouble with the sitzfleisch part, as Maxwell Perkins advises Fitzgerald among others. Clancy: sit your ass down.

But I think it’s so wise if a person can do it the other way. I admire my friend Jon Franzen because he never took the easy way out of the professor. He just stuck with the writing until it hit. I admire everyone who does it that way, I admire that bravery.

BINDER: Since I’ve been in Budapest I’ve written about 1000 words per day. I’m feeling pretty good about that.

MARTIN: 1000 words a day is twice as much as Hemingway and 1/5th as much as Trollope. Sounds like a good number to me.

BINDER: I don’t have the luxury of being a professor. I can’t teach a thing. I tried once and was fired in six weeks’ time.

MARTIN: I think most really talented writers hate to teach and struggle with it. Take it as a badge of honor that you were fired. Keep doing it the way you are. That’s the true, noble path. Kierkegaard: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” Damn straight.

BINDER: Why’d you make Brett a girl? Did you think readers would find her bad behavior more sympathetic than if she were a guy?

MARTIN: I think people would have liked her more if she were a guy, actually, and maybe liked the novel more. She would have made a very interesting vulnerable guy. It may have been a mistake. But I made her a woman so that my daughters wouldn’t read it and think, Oh, this is a very thinly disguised version of our dad, man he was a creep. They may think that anyway, but I wanted plausible deniability.

BINDER: I got a message the other day from the girl who I loosely based the character Tessa on. She was less than pleased with me. Her fiancé was even less pleased. I assume you draw some of your characters from real life. How much trouble have you gotten in?

MARTIN: Well, you know how it is...you just keep reminding people that it’s fiction. I was very worried about my big brother’s reaction to the Jim character in How to Sell. And he was still in the business then. But he just loved the novel. He’s a very cool older brother. Woody Allen is very good on this subject. I guess it’s the same with movies. It’s mostly the former romantic partners who get really upset. And fair enough.

BINDER: It’s very good that we get to hide behind this thin veil of fiction.

MARTIN: Is your doctor based on someone you know? I find it useful to combine several people into one character.

BINDER: Both my father and brother are doctors. I’m sure I’ll draw some inspiration from them. However, I essentially write to impose my personality on the world, so anything I write will ultimately be based on me.

MARTIN: Yes, very helpful to have doctors in the family. Also for research and technical stuff. I have a hero who is in my current novel who is an animal collector, and what I wouldn’t give to be good friends or related to a couple of animal collectors. But yeah, I agree, we import our cockamamie world views through these people. So combining people while schizophrenically carving up ourselves....

BINDER: I called my father the other day, and he was so happy to hear from me since I hadn’t been in touch since I left the country, and then I went straight into some technical questions about medicine and he almost hung up on me.

MARTIN: Are you writing stories and nonfiction, too, or just the new novel?

BINDER: Now that I’ve started the novel, I’ll just be working on that until it’s done.

MARTIN: Ha! Yes, that’s the thing. People start to worry that they are material. You feel a little betrayed and used. Not to keep mentioning Franzen, but that’s a funny thing he said to me recently. “I’m grateful whenever someone puts me in a novel because I know I’ve got it coming.”

I think it’s wise to put everything else aside and just dive into that novel. Novels are the thing, anyway, once they’ve got their hook in you. They’re so much more fun to write.

BINDER: Do you enjoy the act of writing? Do you look forward to actually sitting down and doing the work? I mean, there are so many other things to do in the world, why write?

MARTIN: I enjoy it very, very, very much when I’m doing it. It’s exactly like exercise for me. I love it while I’m doing it, it makes me feel so much better about myself and life after the day’s done (most days), it helps me with anxiety and depression, and it is hugely satisfying. Making myself do it regularly is hard.

And, Flaubert said it best. Writing is like sex. First you do it for your own pleasure, then you do it for the sake of a few friends, and finally you do it for money.

BINDER: I actually dread sitting down to do the work. I’m always afraid that I’m all used up. I have no faith in my abilities. However, it always ends up working out, and then I feel wondrous for the rest of the day. Then, the next day, I experience the whole cycle of dread and wonder again.

MARTIN: Yes, we all feel that way. My mentor Diane Williams says that no matter how long you do it, you’ll feel that way. Used up, no good, worthless, best work behind you. And then, you know—she uses a canvas as a metaphor—start painting, and painting over, and completely covering up and starting again, and eventually something will emerge.

And of course you hope that maybe you could actually write something good. Yes, sitzfleisch, that’s the hard part. I think having no internet and just sitting there in front of the damn thing is a good discipline. Amie writes most of her first drafts on a typewriter, because the internet interferes.

BINDER: The other day, I did a panel in NYC with two much more established writers. There were questions about craft and process and all that business. Both the other writers had these wonderful responses about metaphysics and other things I didn’t understand. When asked about what I do, I said, “I drink and then I write.” And then I realized that was your line, and I gave you credit!

MARTIN: Ha! Thanks. Those complicated answers about how one writes...I’m a tiny bit suspicious of them, I admit. I don’t think of the process in that way. I don’t think of it as puzzle-making. You can’t search for the perfect metaphor. “Thoughts come when they will, not when I will” (Nietzsche). But, of course, everyone has her own method.

BINDER: A lot of your best writing is about the guilt, humiliation, jealousy that comes along with the bad things you’ve done under the influence. I know my own bad behavior is the best source material. I understand that you’re sober now. Has that changed your writing?

MARTIN: I often worry that my work is not as good now that I no longer drink. I was still drinking when I wrote How to Sell, though only at night, when I wasn’t writing. But not drinking is more important than writing, so that’s that, if I have to make the choice. Hopefully, I don’t have to make that choice. To me, Bad Sex is the better book. Less forced, less contrived. But I’m just one reader.

And Lord knows, it doesn’t take drinking to get me into trouble. My poor ole brain is stuffed full of bad behavior. The more I try to investigate it, the more troublesome it becomes.

BINDER: But if you had to choose between peace and contentment or writing amazing books, which would you choose?

MARTIN: I don’t expect peace and contentment. I won’t get it. That’s not a viable option for me. But if I had to choose between my family and writing great books, I’d choose my family without even thinking about it. I love books, but they’re just books. Your family: well, they’re people. No comparison, you know? You can love a book, but it can’t love you back. You? Many of our heroes died alone and broke. I think maybe it was lucky for us...but not so lucky for them. Speaking of alcoholics: Being in that log cabin with the shotgun: no thank you. Bukowski made the right choice: stick with Linda and the wine diet.

BINDER: I’m not sure, I struggle with it. I’ve never been any good at compromise, which I’m told is essential to forging healthy human connections. I’m just starting to figure out this writing business, and when I’ve done it well it gives me more pleasure than any of my relationships. I’m hoping at some point I grow up and that changes.

MARTIN: Yeah, I hear you. That’s a very honest response. I do think I felt differently twenty-two years ago, before my eldest daughter was born. But your children sneak up on you. You have that child and you realize: no matter what else I do, I will never do anything that compares with this kid. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s true. That said, I think it’s a false opposition. Many, many of my heroes had families. Dostoevsky.

BINDER: Also, I have the hardest time finding a woman and sticking with the relationship. The thing about choosing just one is that you have to eliminate all the others. Besides, at this point in my life, I’m not even sure what sort of woman I’d be compatible with. Who could tolerate me?

That said, there are a couple women out there whom I loved dearly, then lost, and now they’ve moved onto other men who treat them better, and I’m totally heartbroken. But is it enough to change my behavior? Probably not in the short run.

MARTIN: Well, I had the same problem with settling down, very clearly. And with heartbreak. Another great quotation from Diane Williams: “It’s all material.” That’s always worth remembering. Now I never want another woman in my life. But it took a lot of time. And yes, sometimes they do sneak up on you in just that way (children). It is a momentous decision. I’ve been writing about it lately. To mention Diane Williams, yet again, her stuff about her children is breathtaking. Lydia Davis is very good on kids too.

BINDER: At some point I hope a child sneaks up on me because I don’t think I could ever consciously choose that for myself. I’d have to be thrown into it. I’m almost positive I’d be glad it happened. At least, I hope I’d be man enough to be a good dad.

MARTIN: Tough to write well about children. Very, very brave. And you’d be glad it happened, trust me. But I do have a lot of friends who’ve consciously chosen not to have kids, for defensible reasons. I think they’re missing out, but everyone knows that having children doesn’t make you happier. Life doesn’t make you happier. Sex doesn’t make you happier. Love doesn’t make you happier. Knowing yourself doesn’t make you happier. Art doesn’t make you happier.

BINDER: Maybe at some point I’ll really want it. I’ve wanted every other goddamn thing in this world. Why not children? Raising, loving, loathing, fearing for your kids is an essential part of the human condition, right?

I’m missing out!

MARTIN: I completely agree. Especially about raising, loving, and fearing. (And maybe loathing your teenager.) Ok, Matt, I’m enjoying this immensely but have to run.

BINDER: This has been great. Thank you again!


Clancy Martin is a writer and philosophy professor who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife the writer Amie Barrodale. Matthew Binder is a former wastrel of the highest order. A cold list of his past behaviors would qualify him as a bastard in anybody's book. His work has drawn comparisons to Bret Easton Ellis, Norman Mailer, and James Salter. Intro text and interview by Matthew Binder. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Pennies From Heaven: An Interview Of French Actress Turned Film Director Maïwenn

Maïwenn is little known in the United States, but in France, she has made an indelible mark on the world of cinema. Most Americans remember her as the seductive, singing alien, Diva Plavalaguna, in Luc Besson’s cult classic, The Fifth Element. However, her future acting and directing endeavors have indisputably eclipsed this small role she played as a teenager. As a director, she has a remarkably intuitive gift for creating masterful scenes that are powder kegs of emotion – with the fuse often lit during the first frame of the movie. The pacing, the chemistry and the fluidity – there is a preternatural authenticity. Over the past ten years she has directed four feature films and one short. Her most recent films Polisse (2011) and My King (2016) – the latter of which will be released next week in theaters – have won her critical acclaim and a multitude of highly coveted nominations. These accolades include, but are not limited to, the Palme d’Or, the César for best film, best director, and best screenplay. Her film Polisse won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Her latest film, My King, starring Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot (who won best actress at Cannes for her role), is an incendiary, piercing tale of love and loss and disillusionment weaved together with tender humor and joie de vivre. We had the chance to sit down with the French Actress turned Director to ask her a few questions about her unconventional upbringing (which includes bringing fistfuls of collected change to see movies at her local cinematheque), the joys and the trials of being a movie director, and some of the techniques that she employs in her films.

Bowie: What do you think about the movie industry in Hollywood, as opposed to Paris?

Maïwenn: I don’t know if I’ve spent enough time here to form an opinion. In Paris we always hear about people in Hollywood being all about money and superficial things. And I’ve met really interesting people. Very free-spirited people. So, I don’t get all the things that people say, but maybe I haven’t spent enough time here.

Bowie: I read that you had wanted to be a standup comedian at some point, and there are a lot of hilarious moments in Mon Roi, despite its being a rather tragic film. Has humor always been a part of your craft?

Maïwenn: Not really. I did a show, but you couldn’t call it standup comedy. It was a show that was both funny and dramatic, but I was never trying to be a standup comedian. But all my movies are a little bit funny. I like to treat dramatic situations with funny dialogues. I like to mix both for balance. I have a passion for funny people, actually. If I could spend all my time with funny people - even if they’re silly - I would do it.

Bowie: They’re the best people.

Maïwenn: Not really, but they make me laugh.

[laughs]

Bowie: You’ve made several movies now, but I’ve read that you started writing Mon Roi about a decade ago. Why did it take so long to put it into motion?

Maïwenn: First of all, I was feeling much more than I do now. I needed to have many experiences before doing this film; as a woman, as a director, as a mother, as a friend – everything. And I think it’s really much easier to do a dramatic story first, then a love story. Because in a love story you have to start with happiness. I didn’t want to make a movie about love and have it stop when they’re fighting. I wanted it to stop when they love each other. And to do that, I needed a lot of experience. François Truffaut says – whatever, I don’t care about François Truffaut, but he says - “les gens heureux n’ont pas d’histoire” (happy people don’t have stories to tell). And it’s true. If it’s a couple, and they’re happy for two hours, I can’t make a movie out of that. So, each year I kept saying to myself, “I’m still not ready to do this movie.” I needed to create distance from my own life experience. I needed to be emotionally independent.

Bowie: Your lead character suffers a knee injury, and her therapist says that it might be the result of some kind of psychological trauma. Do you believe in this theory, and have you ever experienced such a thing?

Maïwenn: I would believe it if I had to. It depends on my mood, and it would depend on what kind of injury I got. But not especially. But the book exists and I was so inspired by the whole thing about the knee. The thing is that I spent 10 years writing the script and when I presented it to my writing partner, Etienne Comar, he said, “I don’t see the movie. I don’t see the point.” And then a few months later I told him I found an idea to help us move more quickly through the story. It’s about the knee, so we can jump back and forth throughout the ten years of the relationship. Otherwise, without the accident, I didn’t know how to explain why we were jumping ahead from time to time. And also, I like the idea of creating a puzzle, so that we start the movie with the knee and we don’t know where we’re going. Also, I wanted to give myself a challenge in the narrative writing process, and I wanted to make it difficult to understand, so that it’s a bit like a thriller.



Bowie: Your movies are packed with emotion and life. Do you have a technique that you employ to imbue your films with that much drama?

Maïwenn: It’s the writing, the actors, the cinematography, etc. It’s really all connected, and maybe it’s just my personality. I like when it’s intense. I like when it’s excessive. And I like when the energy is a little bit close to hysterics. So, I try to transmit a sense of oppression to the actors. And I like when we laugh and we cry. I like when we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Bowie: You’ve said that you know all of these characters in your personal life, but you don’t judge any of them. However, is there one character in the film that you relate to the most?

Maïwenn: Yeah, her [Tony]. Of course.

Bowie: And you mentioned that Vincent Cassel had a long list of critiques when he first read the screenplay. Can you give an example of one of his critiques?

Maïwenn: Well, he had a problem with the first part when they meet and they fall in love. He thought it was too sentimental – a chick flick.

Bowie: What do you get from directing that you can’t get from acting?

Maïwenn: Ah good question. The love from the audience is really different. I feel love and respect from people in a very different way. As a director I feel they respect me intellectually, and as an actress they might like me or even love me, but it’s a lot more superficial. When you say you’re the director it’s like “Oh, okay. Respect.” But it makes sense because directing is so much more difficult.

Bowie: And you have to be more demanding of yourself as a director.

Maïwenn: You know when you’re on the set as a director, every fifteen minutes someone comes to you to tell you about another problem that you have to deal with. That’s your whole life for ten weeks. It’s like – oh we don’t have the set anymore, or the actor isn’t free anymore. So, you have to find another set in ten minutes. Or an actor is late, or he’s on drugs, what do we do? It’s always like this.

Bowie: That’s a lot to manage.

Maïwenn: And also to deal with the whole crew on the set, usually they’re all men, and usually they’re all older than me. So when you’re the boss and you have to tell a bunch of older men what to do, believe me, it’s not easy to deal with them. And it’s not just because I’m a director, it’s because I’m a woman.

Bowie: Yes, so even though women having been taking on executive positions and hiring men…

Maïwenn: It’s in the blood!

Bowie: Yeah, the psychological shift is still so difficult for them. Is it different promoting a movie in the U.S. vs. France?

Maïwenn: Yeah, it’s different because of the language, so it’s hard to find exact words in English. But also, the people don’t know me here, so they don’t start the interview with any preconceived notions. In France I have such a bad reputation that everyone says, “Oh Maïwenn, she’s crazy. She’s hysterical. She’s crazy.” So that when they arrive, they’re already shaking like, “ahh what’s gonna happen?” So, I have to expend a lot of energy to tell them that I’m normal and nothing’s going to happen. But with journalists I’m not very generous, because I don’t like to analyze my work, and they think that I don’t analyze because I’m being lazy. And I keep saying that it’s not in my nature to do that. I don’t know why I’ve done this movie. I’ve just done it. And I think that all my answers are in the movie. I don’t want to dissect myself to find all the answers. So sometimes I can give a very short answer and I can feel their frustration.

Bowie: In the film she was reading La Vie Devant Soi (The Life Before Us). What was the choice behind that?

Maïwenn: I like the title.

Bowie: It’s very appropriate for the film.

Maïwenn: And I like the book as well, but I chose it because of the title.

Bowie: And the watch that he gives her in the film, is that the watch you’re wearing?

Maïwenn: Yes! It’s my watch that I put in the movie because I like it so much.

Bowie: Yeah, it’s beautiful. What was your artistic background? Did you have artists in your family?

Maïwenn: Yeah, my mother, my father also kind of, but we were a really bohemian family. Very hard times. No money at all. They were cultured, but they didn’t know how to transmit it. They never really taught me how to communicate.

Bowie: And when did you discover film?

Maïwenn: My mother thinks it’s because of her, because she’s an intellectual. She’s a cinephile, but when I was living with her I couldn’t stand all the movies she was watching. It was so boring. So I started watching movies on TV, and then I started ditching school and one day I went to a cinema in Paris and I had collected all the change in the house to buy a ticket. And the guy saw me counting all the coins to buy one ticket and he told me, “Starting now, any time you come to this cinema, you’re never gonna pay.” So I started going every day and it changed my life. And I want so much to say thank you to him, but I don’t how to find his name. I asked a girl at the box office once and she said she didn’t know where he is, so I never got to thank him.


Maïwenn's newest film, My King, opens in New York on August 12 and in Los Angeles on August 26. text and interview by Summer Bowie. photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Expansion and Retraction: An Interview Of Rising Melbourne Based Musician Oscar Key Sung

Oscar Key Sung is a rising name in Australia's independent music scene, coming out of Melbourne. He's been steadily releasing music through collaborative projects and on his own for the past few of years, but it is his unique approach to blending experimental electronic beats with RnB vocals yet keeping a pop-style element to his sound, that has gained him attention as an emerging solo artist.  His latest single 'Hands' from his anticipated debut full length album see's him continue to captivate us sonically and visually with a music video that features minimalistic contemporary dance and lighting effects. Ahead of his album to be release later this year, we spoke to him about the new record, how he defines his distinctive style and his introduction into music.

AUTRE: You mentioned once that you started playing music at 5 years old in your uncle’s “art/punk” band – what was that like?


OSCAR KEY SUNG: I was so little so its hard to empathize with how it felt at the time. But I know it was so fun. I had a beautiful connection with my uncle, he was my best friend. I remember one night they let me sing a song that I had written, and I cried the whole time I was singing. Must have just really gotten real at that moment. Must have been funny to watch, the audience was nice and supportive though.

AUTRE: Was punk the first type of music that you were introduced to?

SUNG: My parents were super into dance music and hip hop around the time I was a kid. They both worked in fashion and a lot of the clothes they designed had a street wear/rave slant. Sub cultures always have a cross medium connection between style, art, music. But they had come out of the “crystal ballroom” punk scene of the 80s in Melbourne, and they carried a lot of that mentality through everything they did. So yeh a few different styles at first, not just punk. Also my uncle's group probably wouldn’t pass as a “punk group”, more of a sort of esoteric art performance thing, he was pretty singular in his approach, hard to throw in a genre basket.

AUTRE: Would you describe your music as pop or is it something more unique to who you are?

SUNG: I think that being pop doesn’t necessarily mean not being unique. For instance Bjork identifies as a pop artist. To me pop means more that it is polished and in the mainstream, other than that, the content of the art is fair game.

AUTRE: You were a part of a musical duo, Oscar and Martin, before venturing off and going solo – is it harder or easier to work on your own or do you miss the camaraderie that comes with collaborating?


SUNG: It's just different, not better or worse. I definitely miss the camaraderie though. I also notice that groups seem to egg each other on in a way, they push each other. 

AUTRE: Through making and releasing multiple solo albums, have you noticed anything about your evolution as a musical artist?


SUNG: I think there is with out doubt a lot of change with every release I have done. It's interesting, in a way I am most proud of the solo album I put out in 2007. It is so fearless and self indulgent in a way I think I could never quite do again.

AUTRE: Can you describe the vibe behind your current single and upcoming album – is there a pervading message or theme in this album or is there something that you set out to say when you made the album?


SUNG: The current single “hands” is to me quite an ambitious track, in that it sets out to achieve a number of ideas and directions in one composition. It's somewhere between a club track, with an almost instrumental grime sort of direction, and a sensitive ballad, because vocally it is sort of sensitive and androgynous. I think the whole album plays with that feeling of opposing elements. There is always a push and pull, expansion and retraction.

AUTRE: Do you enjoy being on the stage or in the studio better – some musical artists sometimes have a preference for one or the other?


SUNG: Every studio day and every performance is some what separate. Sometimes I just pull my hair out for the day and achieve nothing when I am writing and producing. And some shows feel like a beautiful connection, and others like an outer body nightmare disaster. So it really depends. I suppose I want both, I don’t want to trade one in for the other.


Watch the official music video for the track Hands below. Click here to stay up to date with upcoming shows. Intro text and photographs by Darren Luk. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


The Interminable Apprentice: An Interview Of Fine Jewelry Designer Elie Top

Elie Top may just be one of the most glamorous men in Paris. Working silently under the likes of Yves Saint Laurent before his passing, and Alber Elbaz for Lanvin before Elbaz left the helm of the fashion house, Top has gained a keen and sharp insight into the world of luxury jewelry and accessory making. Elbaz’s exit was a perfect excuse for Top to take what he learned as an interminable apprentice and start his own eponymously named label. His new collection, entitled Mécaniques Célestes, is an insight into the ornamental aesthete’s lifelong fascination with all things baroque, classical and talismanic. Gold, diamonds, precious stones and other metals reinterpret the armillary sphere – tiny universes atop a finger, atop a breastbone; perfect and encapsulated. When we met Top, we ambushed him with an interview proposal during a cigarette break from hosting his recent pop up at Maxfield’s in Los Angeles (it was his first ever visit to Los Angeles). Our conversation oscillated between his memories of working with Saint Laurent, his love for jewelry and his new collection.

SUMMER BOWIE: So when you were much younger did you know that jewelry design and accessories were going to be your career path?

TOP: What do you mean by younger? Which age? [laughs] 

BOWIE: A child.

TOP: When I was really young I was more into architecture and was sketching very precisely in a maniacal way. Mostly churches and castles. I was very inspired by the 18th century French style and Italian and Austrian things, and was very obsessed with the Baroque period. So not very modern.

BOWIE: Where in France are you from originally?

TOP: I was born in the very north of France, close to Belgium in the countryside. So really a very small village. There were factories because it’s kind of an industrial area, but at the same time, there’s a lot of farms and animals. So it’s a strange mix between both.

BOWIE: So not that many Baroque influences.

TOP: Yeah, I don’t know why I’m obsessed with that! I went to Italy for the first time when I was quite young. I was maybe nine the first time I went to Rome, then I went to Venice, then I went to Bavaria, and I used to go quite often to Versailles and places like that. But around eleven or twelve I decided I wanted to work in fashion and I started to sketch more fashion things...but not especially accessories. It was more general - but then I went to fashion school in Paris at seventeen. I went to work at Yves Saint Laurent when I was around nineteen as a general assistant in the studio when Yves Saint Laurent was still there.

BOWIE: How did you get that job?

TOP: Thanks to school. I went in as an intern for two months and they kept me around which was quite cool. I was doing illustrations. Then Alber [Elbaz] arrived because he was doing the Rive Gauche collections. It was late 90s and that’s how I met him; when I was twenty-one. I think he didn’t know exactly what to do with me and he didn’t have anybody to work on the jewels and accessories in general, because Loulou de la Falaise was no longer doing the jewelry at Yves Saint Laurent. So he just asked me to start working so I started doing sketches and working with manufacturers, which is how I got started. He encouraged me and pushed me to work in this direction. And I was working at the same time on handbags and leather goods. But progressively over the years, I just gave up everything but the jewels because it’s what I liked the most.

BOWIE: What is it about jewelry that makes it so appealing?

TOP: I think it’s quite close to what I used to sketch when I was a child. It’s the same way that I’m looking at it and the way I’m imagining it. There’s always so many variables, and it always involves these architectural problems. As I like to sketch very precisely, everything is the same thing, actually. Like all the castles and all the jewels are the same. I’m very passionate and precise so I can really sketch for hours.

BOWIE: And then you worked for Lanvin as well?

TOP: Yeah, when Alber arrived at Lanvin, he called me and we started to work together immediately.

BOWIE: And do you prefer now working on your own better than for these major fashion houses like Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent?

TOP: Hmm… It’s very different for me, because for me Alber, and Saint Laurent - and LouLou as well because I worked with her too - they felt like a continuation of my school years and they were really great mentors, because they really helped me. Alber and Loulou encouraged me and taught me a lot. And now I’ve grown up and I can do my own thing. It’s more about that freedom to do something for yourself and not for somebody else, which is very different. It’s more difficult in a way because when you work with my state of mind - I was very devoted to those people - I would do my best to please them and now I have to please myself which is something very different. [laughs]

BOWIE: Were you nervous at first about doing your own thing?

TOP: Yeah. It also took me a long time to find my own aesthetic, because it was so mixed. Like for instance with Alber, I had a lot of freedom but he was always there, so it was a mix of him and me, and it was very connected to the theme of the fashion show so we could do something one season and the opposite the season after. So it was always attached to the collection. Suddenly we were without clothes, and we were without a theme. It wasn’t coming out of me. So, I had to look at my previous work to find the elements that were really me. Because I could see how all the ribbons were completely Alber, and everything which was more Baroque and with all the mixes of materials was more my story. I realized that my story’s all about system and structure, so I tried to extract that. It took me a long time to realize and to find myself. For fifteen years I was working for so many people and a lot of clients and it became more of a mathematical exercise, where you have to find their aesthetic and then create it yourself. It was a sort of a game. But then suddenly I didn’t have anybody else and I didn’t have any other variables to work with.

BOWIE: And what was the difference between what you learned working with Alber Elbaz and Loulou de la Falaise, and what you learned working with Yves Saint Laurent?

TOP: Oh they’re all such different people. [laughs] For Loulou it was more about her own personality. She had a lot of freedom in the way that she could mix things that were very cheap with things that were very expensive. It was more about the way she was thinking about style and the way that she was mixing a lot of ethnic and Bavarian shapes. African themes mixed with Parisian couture. But she used to do it in such a free way because it was completely her own personality; very intuitive. I don’t work like her at all, because she wasn’t really sketching. She was more about taking the elements, mixing them, and it was more organic and a very sensitive experience. And actually Alber is a bit the same in his way of working because he’s not really sketching, but always doing fittings and fittings, and it’s all about words. He talks a lot as he’s trying to find the story and trying to find some keywords to define what he wants. And then he is really all about the body of the woman and...many fittings. But Yves Saint Laurent was the opposite in the way he was working. He was always sketching, very precisely, and if it wasn’t looking exactly like the sketch, he didn’t want the clothes. Alber would just be sketching basic silhouettes, and then he was progressively transforming everything and doing everything directly on the body in the fittings. He wasn’t attached to the sketch.


"At the end, sometimes, there would suddenly be one thing that was so moving, people would really start crying. And this happens so rarely because it is beyond fashion...you’re not talking about fashion anymore. You’re going somewhere else."


BOWIE: And it seems like you have a more specific vision that you put on paper, and then you try to realize it very directly, as opposed to this very sensual experience where you have an idea, and you play until you find it. 

TOP: Exactly. I’m really sketching exactly what I want to see with the jewels, and I don’t move from that. Whereas Alber was working like a lot of women - Vionnet, Chanel, Grès - all those women weren’t sketching, but just doing fittings.

BOWIE: Do you have any great memories of Yves Saint Laurent? Any in particular?

TOP: Sometimes. It never happens to me anymore but sometimes--and I think it’s why people are so attached to him--during the fittings we’d have goosebumps. Sometimes when the model would come in and do a twirl in the clothes it was just so perfect, so impressive, so moving that everybody’s jaw dropped. It’s impossible to describe the experience. Even when I’m talking about it I remember it so clearly.

BOWIE: You start to get goosebumps? [laughs]

TOP: And some people would be crying during the show which was really strange because the show, to be honest, was very old-fashioned. At the end, sometimes, there would suddenly be one thing that was so moving, people would really start crying. And this happens so rarely because it is beyond fashion...you’re not talking about fashion anymore. You’re going somewhere else.

BOWIE: It’s very transcendent.

TOP: And I think that’s the reason people were so attached to him. Because it was something else, not only about clothes. He was doing something else. 

BOWIE: And did you feel that yourself too?

TOP: Yeah, once I was really crying.

BOWIE: Well can you tell us a little bit about this collection?

TOP: This collection is the first I’ve shown and now I’ve developed a few new pieces and I’ve done some variations on those themes. It’s called Mécaniques Célestes. It’s all about the armillary spheres, the planets, and globes. Actually my work in the beginning was trying to unify my two aesthetic tendencies, which are from my childhood and my industrial side. And I thought it was coming from living in the middle of all these factories, and mechanical and industrial landscapes. Then my fascination for something more Baroque, more precious and narrative came, so I tried to find a way to put these two opposites together in the same piece. So that’s the reason there is this thing that you can hide or show. And when it’s closed it’s a bit more radical and pure. When you open it, for me, you’re telling something more poetic and more narrative. Then I found inspiration from the principles of globes, for instance from the sugar bowls you see in Parisian bars. I saw the way it opens and closes and I was looking in and thought, “oh that’s perfect.” And that was really my starting point. [laughs] 

So I had already sketched a few things but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted to put inside, so I was always looking for the perfect matching thing about the system and the mechanical on the inside and outside and what would be the good unity between everything. Then I found an amazing book with the same title called Mécaniques Célestes about the whole collection of these armillary spheres from a really great antique store in Paris. It’s exactly what I needed so when I found it, I sketched everything and that was really the start of it. What I also really liked was how you can always hide the most gorgeous part to give something more playful, but it depends what you wear with it. It all has to do with your own attitude and clothes.

BOWIE: Yeah it’s really quite romantic, this combination of the celestial and the industrial element. If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?

TOP: Talking about my collection? Strangely, when it came out it was a mix of futuristic and medieval at the same time, and structure is important as well.


You can visit Elie Top's website to see more of the collection and stockists. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Interview by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Patron Saint Of The Impossible: An Interview Of South African Hip Artist Dope Saint Jude

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text by Keely Shinners

Who is Dope Saint Jude? For one thing, she is subversive: a self-produced black queer woman from South Africa who is breaking into the cis-male dominated hip hop scene. She is cool: tattoos, leather, glitter on her lips; she has guys on gold chains in her music videos, and next week she is flying to France for the second leg of her tour. She is revolutionary: using hip hop and mad aesthetics as a means to talk about queer visibility, the politics of the brown body, the radical act of self-empowerment. Dope Saint Jude drinks coffee with you, talks about going back to school to legitimize and expand her political consciousness. Days later, you are sharing a joint and dancing at a party for which the theme is “70s DISCO, BLACK EXCELLENCE, and INEVITABLE SHINE.” In essence, Dope Saint Jude resists clean definitions. She is multi-faceted and she expands to include narratives we don’t normally read together.

Catherine Saint Jude Pretorius and I sat down to talk about making art that is radical and dope, political and accessible, impossible and, as it turns out, possible for those with the courage to love themselves.

KEELY SHINNERS: Who is Dope Saint Jude? Is she a persona?

DOPE SAINT JUDE: Dope Saint Jude started out as a persona that embodies everything that I want to be: powerful, bold, unapologetic, zero fucks to give. But Catherine and the character Dope Saint Jude are slowly becoming one person. Dope Saint Jude is the epitome of everything I want to be. Performing as Dope Saint Jude, in itself, is such an incredible process. It’s changing my life. It’s changing the type of person I am. It’s made me more confident. Maybe I would have wanted to travel. Before, it was just a dream. Dope Saint Jude is worldly. As a girl coming from the Cape Flats, the prospect of traveling was a very far away idea. Now, it’s a part of my everyday life. Like, next week, I’m going to France.

SHINNERS: That’s amazing. 

SAINT JUDE: It’s also been such a cathartic and therapeutic process, performing as Dope Saint Jude. The persona is not just a persona. It’s become a tool transforming my reality. Even going back to school has informed me. I listen to my own music, which is about being bold, being excellent, and pushing the boundaries of your potential. So I listen to my music, and I think, “I have to live my best life. I have to study. I have to be excellent.” 

SHINNERS: The imagination is becoming a reality. That’s really hopeful for enacting change.

SAINT JUDE: It’s not just an empty persona that just exists for the performance. It’s actively transforming my reality and realities of everyone I work with. I place a very strong emphasis on collaboration. The whole spirit of Dope Saint Jude is not just limited to me. It’s not selfish. It’s growing. I’m working with other young creatives who are doing inspiring things. We’re motivated and inspired by each other. It’s an explosive thing.

SHINNERS: Young creatives in Cape Town are doing really amazing things. Talking to people, it seems that some people are really disillusioned by the art world in Cape Town, while others are really inspired. Where do you fall?

SAINT JUDE: I feel quite inspired by it, but I understand why people feel disillusioned. I reclaim space, don’t give any fucks, and make my own reality. If there’s no space for me to showcase, I’ll create my own. In that spirit, that’s why it’s important for us to create our own art, to collaborate, to create space when people don’t want us. Being a queer artist here in Cape Town, there’s not really a platform for me. I’ve made my name overseas. Unfortunately, that’s the reality. I can’t earn a living here. But I’m exciting about developing the art and music scene here.

SHINNERS: So you’re doing a little bit of both, going abroad and making your own space here? 

SAINT JUDE: Exactly. I think you have to do a little bit of both. We live in an international community now that we have the Internet. I meet you now, I might bump into you in a different country. That’s the lifestyle we live now. Or that some of us are afforded; not everyone is that privileged. You’re in the global sphere; you can’t contain yourself in Cape Town and South Africa. But at the same time, we’re in a weird space here. Everyone is looking for Cape Town artists, but there is no tightly-bound Cape Town art community. It’s a divide and conquer mentality. Everyone is doing their own thing separately, trying to make money, instead of us coming together and working as one. It’s because we’re poor. If we had money and resources, we would be able to create without having to make a living. When you have the luxury to make art for the sense of art, you can make money easily.

SHINNERS: And you can’t blame people for that.

 SAINT JUDE: So I’m trying to be in the middle. I also need to eat. I don’t come from a wealthy family. I come from a poor family. I need to make my own money.

SHINNERS: You’re from the Cape Flats? What is that like?

SAINT JUDE: It’s a historically colored area. I come from a mixed-race family. We aren’t very wealthy. For me, it’s a big deal to be able to do what I’m doing. Creating art as a black South African is a privilege. To even dream that kind of lifestyle, that you can make a living from art. “It’s not real work.” That’s what people say. It’s a luxury that I’m aware of.

SHINNERS: You got started on the Internet. What about having access to the Internet informed the work that you made?

SAINT JUDE:  I can’t talk about anything of these things without talking about the socioeconomic struggle in South Africa. My access to the Internet is because I was afforded the privilege of the Internet. My parents made sure I went to good schools in the age of the Internet becoming a big thing. I became an Internet-savvy person at a young age. A lot of artists in Cape Town are doing dope things, but they don’t have Internet access. They don’t know how to use the Internet the same way I do. So, how the Internet impacted my work… The Internet gave me information that I wouldn’t have had access to. As a queer person here, the queer community is very small and racially divided. Having access to the Internet made me feel like I was a part of a bigger community, something that I call Future Queer. It’s not just gay, lesbian, whatever. It’s fluidity; it’s anyone who redefines that way of thinking.

SHINNERS: On the flipside, as you’re putting out your work, you’re putting it out on Soundcloud and YouTube as opposed to looking for a label. Is the accessibility of the Internet important to you?

SAINT JUDE: Because of the stuff I’m creating and the climate in South Africa, which I think is quite conservative for queer people, you’re put in a box. I hate when people label me as a “queer artist.” I hate that type of thing. I feel like I’m accessible to a lot of different audiences. The Internet gave me the platform to be able to communicate that. I just say, this is who I am. Different people take away their own ideas. As soon as you associate yourself with any kind of institution – a label or whatever it is – you’re automatically branded and given a type of audience. I like that the Internet opens the audience to anyone. My music has interest from an academic audience, as well as a “black girl magic” audience because of the strong brown girl power messages in my music.

SHINNERS: You said that you don’t want people to put you in a box. Still, a lot of the interviews I read say, “Dope Saint Jude, a queer black artist.” To me, it seems fetishizing. Do you feel that way? How do you deal with that?

SAINT JUDE: I do! I don’t do “queer hip hop.” That’s part of my identity, and I’ll never deny my ties to the queer community. But saying you’re a “queer artist” is so limiting. Like, we don’t say, “He’s a white guitarist. You should listen to his music.” It’s bullshit. I feel like my music has so many different elements. I’m influenced by Dr. Dre and girls chilling in the hood, Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj stuff. But I’m also woke. Don’t limit me. That’s the thing the media is guilty of. We want to fetishize people. It’s too complex to comprehend, so you want to put it into a box. That’s why I’ve called my EP “Reimagine.” I’m constantly reimagining. I hate it when people do me the disservice of limiting me to one narrative. I have multiple narratives. Also, it feels racist when people do that. They limit your narrative to your struggle, and that’s all. No, I’m joyful. I smoke weed with my girls. We ride in the car and go to the beach and party.

SHINNERS: And the media spins it in a way that sounds like, “You will be edgy and cool if you know about this queer underground artist.”

SAINT JUDE: To an extent, it’s nice. I do exploit it. People want to box me into whatever, but that clickbait can open me up to a new audience. I have to deal with it. I also can’t be upset about it all the time. It’s important that I’m visible as a queer artist. There are so many young, black, queer people who are scared and insecure. For me to actively identify with that, it’s cool. But when big, big blogs do it, it upsets me.



SHINNERS: Being a self-made artist – making your own beats, collaborating with people who want to work with, making your own visuals – seems very important to you. What is the thought process behind doing everything on your own?

SAINT JUDE: One element is that I don’t want to be a rapper who raps over other people’s beats. I see myself as an artist. I want to be involved in the creation of every aspect of my art. I don’t exclusively want to work on my own beats, but it’s important that I use that language because it gives me power in the process. It’s important that I feel in control of my own process. And it just makes the art better, when you’re in control. As a woman, I don’t want guys making beats for me, telling me, “This is how you need to be on this beat. We would prefer it if you were sexier.” As soon as someone makes a beat for you, they feel like they can direct your process. I don’t like that. There are so many male rappers who do that. No one ever credits female rappers on producing and rapping themselves. It’s a powerful thing. Also, in terms of the visuals, it’s important for how I communicate as an artist. I don’t want videos that other people direct just because being hot in front of a car looks cool. If I want to be hot in front of a car, I must know why I’m doing that. I want things to be done in my terms. As a female artist, it’s revolutionary to be in control of your process. 

SHINNERS: What, to you, is the relationship between hip hop and activism? 

SAINT JUDE: Hip hop is really cool because it was the music of oppressed people. That’s where it comes from. It’s cool to explore different struggles in hip hop. Not only rapping about it. You don’t want to rap about problems all the time. It’s cool to communicate using hip hop visually and in terms of the sound. You can throw in things subliminally. It’s accessible. You can talk about things in a cool way. I like to exploit the cool. Young kids and teenagers watch my videos and aspire to that because of the look. But it’s a buy-in to get them into a revolutionary way of thinking. Hip hop is a really cool medium, but it has its limitations. Some people think hip hop and queerness don’t go together, because hip hop is historically quite patriarchal and leans on masculinity. But I think that hip hop is a tool for oppressed people, not just black men. There are other people who are entitled to use the music to express their joy and their pain and their power.

SHINNERS: How do you balance making music that is political, revolutionary, and confrontational towards people’s ideas about blackness and queerness while, at the same time, making music that is accessible?

SAINT JUDE: I think that the idea that the two can’t exist together is a fantasy. In the past, people imagined conscious music as music to sit and think, to blaze and go on a trip. And then there was Lil’ Wayne, turn up music. But I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. That’s something we need to debunk. Like, I find Kanye West’s music quite revolutionary, but it’s also cool to turn up to. It’s small things, like having good beats, that make is accessible, incorporating other facets of cool. For example, if you are a revolutionary thinker and artist, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to go to the club and smoke weed and drink. I want to talk about both sides. 

SHINNERS: We can have a multi-faceted idea.

SAINT JUDE: We’re not limited to one thing. I also like to utilize cool things visually, like fashion. Fashion is revolutionary, but it’s also cool. It’s nice to use that as a tool to bring people in. When teenagers see the fashion, when they see sexy people, they are drawn in. The listen to the music, and it can be informative.

SHINNERS: It can lead them to other avenues.

SAINT JUDE: There are so many things you can do. Shooting dope videos. Messing with the art design. Having interesting-looking people. And if you’re art is good, it’s cool anyway.

SHINNERS: You are a very powerful woman, both in your music and outside of it. But we have two conversations about power going on. We have the “dismantle power” conversation, and we have the “embrace your power” conversation. How do you navigate undoing power while championing your own power when making art?

SAINT JUDE: In embracing my own power, I’m dismantling other structures. My power is valid, and it’s just as important as yours. Also, it’s reimagining this idea of power. Me being powerful doesn’t mean the next person isn’t powerful. The patriarchy and white supremacy champion exclusive power. But the power that I’m embracing is power for all of us. It’s not limited to me and my experience. Also, I try not to focus too much on dismantling all of those structures. It’s draining for me. Why do that when I can empower myself? I happen to be a part of all these disenfranchised groups: black people, queer people, women. It’s exhausting to say, “Fight the patriarchy. Fight this and fuck that.” It’s exhausting on your spirit. I’d rather celebrate that pure joy then perpetuate that “Fuck you,” energy. It’s not helpful. It’s necessary to be angry, but I don’t want to cultivate that in myself. You grow so much from celebration. That’s the revolutionary act. Actually celebrating yourself. Self-love is a radical act.

SHINNERS: When you imagine self-love, what do you imagine?

SAINT JUDE: Small things. Not being hard on yourself for stupid things. Being your own best friend. Promoting yourself. Having you own back. It takes courage to believe you are worth something and that your voice is valid. It doesn’t matter if other people don’t like what you’re saying. The fact that you’re saying it is important. It starts even with just putting lotion on yourself everyday because you love yourself and you’re important to yourself. There’s no shame in buying yourself something nice to wear. For conscious hip hop people, we’ve been taught that it’s selfish to want to indulge and do nice things for ourselves. That’s counterproductive. We need to be kind and gentle to ourselves. Self-love is making your dreams a priority. It’s not far away, wishful thinking. Love yourself to make your happiness important. I think about where I come from. My grandmother cleaned houses and sewed things to make a living. My mom became a teacher. She loved her job, but a lot of women, particularly black women, spend their lives doing jobs that weren’t their first choice. At this point, self-love is allowing yourself to do things that make you happy. You don’t have to suffer. We’re not limited in that way. Structurally, some people are. I’m privileged enough to be able to do art. But self-love is opening your mind to that possibility, that you deserve it. Love yourself enough to work hard and transcend your circumstance.

SHINNERS: That goes back to what you were saying first. You imagined this persona that carried all these desires that seemed unattainable. Now, your life is catching up. 

SAINT JUDE: It’s all because of self-love. If I didn’t love myself, I would have been stuck working for some job that I hated. I didn’t think I deserved to travel or live the life I wanted to. People are in mental prisons. They can’t even imagine being happy. People are so used to suffering because we come from generations of suffering. We accept that as the norm. When you start to love yourself, you can start imagining that it could be a reality. Your life can be enjoyable.

SHINNERS: You just came to the US on tour. Why do you think your music speaks to an American audience?

SAINT JUDE: My point of reference as an artist in terms of pop culture in media is American. That makes me accessible; I can speak that language. Even the humor, the jokes, the sass. It’s informed by the American media I’ve been consuming my whole life. Also, I feel like the US and Europe have a more progressive queer community, and a more progressive art community. To an extent, I was very surprised. There’s a lot of Cape Town slang in my music. People still fuck with my music even though there’s a lot of shit they can’t understand. 

SHINNERS: In Catholicism, Saint Jude is the patron saint of the Impossible. What impossibilities – in work or in life – can you identify? How are you overcoming them?

SAINT JUDE: It’s such a fitting name. My mom named me Catherine Saint Jude because she had four boys, and I was the only girl. She thought it was gong to be impossible to have a girl. I’m glad I chose the second name my mom gave me as my performance name. Everything I’ve done is kind of impossible. Before I was Dope Saint Jude, I was a drag king. I started Cape Town’s first Drag King troupe. Put up a wall, and I will only see it as a challenge to overcome. I grew up in a strict Catholic home. I was super involved in the church. But I’ve felt excluded from the world because I like girls. Now, I’m reimaging and reworking my relationship with my creator. That’s an impossible thing to do, but I’m doing it. If I think about what Christianity is really about, it’s about embracing people who are different. Jesus would have been hanging out with me and my girls. 


You can download Dope Saint Jude's latest album, Reimagine, here. She will also be performing at Festival Les Escales in Saint-Nazaire, France with Iggy Pop headlining. Text, interview and photographs by Keely Shinners. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Happy Endings: An Interview With Alex Cameron and Roy Molloy

These days, being an indie musician is harder than ever and no one knows that better than Aussie based Alex Cameron and his “business partner” and saxophonist Roy Molloy who have been on tour for three years supporting Cameron’s various releases. Next month, Cameron will release his official debut album, entitled Jumping The Shark on Secretly Canadian. The album is very much a collage of disillusionment – disillusionment with the music industry, love and life in general. It’s a raw album that howls with the sentiment of an artist that has been raked over the coals more than once. But it’s not all doom and gloom – these “four minute tales” of failed ambition and self-destruction that comprise the upcoming album are really relatable, listenable and offer a sense of catharsis akin to copping a fix. Cameron’s darkness is evident, but behind the devilish disguise is a brilliant songwriter belting out mythical, Homeresque lyrics in a deep monotone that recalls Ian Curtis or the late Alan Vega. Henry Rollins, of Black Flag, once described Cameron as being "right out of a David Lynch hell dream.” Currently, Cameron and Molloy are touring through Europe. We got a chance to catch up with them in at a bowling alley in London right after the United Kingdom ‘brexited’ from the EU. The darkness of those events add another even layer of pall over this interview, which explores tour life, global catastrophe, and finding yourself through a deep sense of self-pity.

JESSICA GWYNETH: You’ve officially finished with the UK portion with your tour for an album about failure. You couldn’t have picked a more ironic time to be here. What has the past week been like for the both of you?

ALEX CAMERON: I don’t know if I see irony, but I definitely see suitability. The album we’ve written is growing in relevance. The way I see our work is it’s like a thread that moves forward,  communicating with the future. It’s not just about the present it’s a comment about what is on its way as well. So if we’re asked how we feel to be in the UK right now and if we’re feeling that it’s ironic to be here given that we write about failure, it just feels suitable, it feels relevant, it feels what we’re doing is appropriate to our work.

ROY MOLLOY: It’s not ironic, it’s beautiful.

CAMERON: It’s quite beautiful, really, suitable. We feel good. I feel disgruntled by the way things have happened here and we feel empathy because of the way things have happened in Australia as well because it’s quite similar, politically. And when we write about failure. Our message is also primarily about overcoming those failures and celebrating, so personally I think it’s high time that the youth step up and started to play a bigger role in what happens politically around the world, because I think that the longer you spend alive as a human the more jaded you become. It’s all cyclical so you’re not around long enough to realize that everything that’s happening has happened before.

ROY MOLLOY: You saw it happening in Sydney... 30% of people under 25 voted. Same thing back in Australia, they said, “Ah it’s an apathetic generation, people don’t show up and don’t do their parts politically.” Then as soon as people started hitting the streets and protesting and shit, they’ve put in a bunch of laws prohibiting that and giving out jail times. They’re going to blame me for not voting and when I do they’re gonna shit their pants.


GWYNETH: Are there any particular cities along the tour that you’re looking forward to the most?

CAMERON: Budapest. We’re touring with Mac Demarco and he’s basically selling out everywhere so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for us. It’s great that he invited us. We’re good friends and he’s really generous with his success. He likes to invite people that he’s friends with and appreciates their music so well. And for us it’s about the hustle, so doing Eastern Europe is a big thing for us because our music hasn’t really reached that part of the world yet. I’m looking forward to Budapest and I’m looking forward to Vienna as well.

GWYNETH: Yeah it’s supposed to be really great in Vienna.  

MOLLOY: People keep asking us if we’ve got a fan base in Eastern Europe but I don’t think we do. That’s not how you get a fan base, you know? You get it by doing hot shows and making people feel the love and pay attention.

GWYNETH: So far you’ve been touring with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Mac Demarco. Is the vibe significantly different depending on who you share a stage with?

CAMERON: Yeah, they all have different audiences and have different vibes. Our job is to make sure we stay consistent. A lot of people sort of feel the need to discuss whether or not it’s relevant for a support act, but it’s never a discussion for us. It’s never about being suitable, it’s whether or not we can win over an audience no matter who we’re opening for. And the answer is always yes. We just have to focus on what our job is, which is performing our songs and doing our set. The stronger you are in what you do as an artist, the more successful the experience.




GWYNETH: And Angel Olsen will be joining you in the States. Not only is her sound a definite departure from a lot of your current tour mates but yours as well. Have you played together in the past or is this a completely new experience for you?


CAMERON: We’ve been trying to tour with Angel for the last couple of years because we’re friends. We were on the same festival circuit in Australia a couple years ago and that’s how we met, but I think what we share or what I think I share with Angel as songwriters is that we’re kind of both not concerned about whether or not we’re departing or remaining the same. The concern is about trying to reach some degree of transcendence and truth in songwriting. And I think it applies to performance as well, it’s about putting on a great show. The more different we are as performers, the more exciting it is. It’d be dull if it was three of us doing the exact same thing. So we’re or I’m excited--are you excited?

MOLLOY: Yeah definitely, you don’t want to be like a crappier version of the band you’re touring. [laughs]

CAMERON: If you do a really fuckin’ excellent version of what you do, people go ‘holy smokes that’s exciting’. 


GWYNETH: Your new album, ‘Jumping the Shark‘ is described as a collection of four-minute tales that provide insight into inner workings of failed ambitions and self-destruction. Are there any recent events in your life that inspired the album or is it more based on your life overall?

 CAMERON: It’s based on a sense of self-pity that can be generated inside someone from inactivity and/or high ambition. I think we’re real ambitious guys and we don’t see the ceiling of what we do. We’re expecting a lot of ourselves in terms of work, rate, and degrees of success, so it’s just our way of commenting on the vast feeling of sadness you can experience if you don’t match those expectations with work. The songs are all based on things that have happened to me or Roy, or our friends and family, of what just altered them to fit into this one singular world where these stories trail on or mark the other. For anything particular that inspired it?

MOLLOY: The fear of global catastrophe.

CAMERON: The fear of global catastrophe is a big one, lots of substance abuse, trying to find a way to release the self or the shame that builds up over the course of your life, because there’s so many embarrassing things that I’ve done that you’ve just gotta get through it and find a way to turn it into something positive. We like to call where we operate in as the “no-judgement-zone”. We don’t like to judge anyone but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to talk about what we absolutely need to talk about.

GWYNETH: In 2014 you released a short documentary that chronicled your experience at South By Southwest. In it you state, “I wonder of those fortunate enough to adore their own faults in a mirror of success.” Is this excerpt a foreshadowing of the current album in any way?

MOLLOY: I forgot about that quote, I like that one.

CAMERON: I guess those two things are kind of unrelated. That’s me just contemplating on what it’d feel like to be successful. The album ‘Jumping the Shark’ doesn’t speak directly about success but speaks directly about failure. I don’t think it has anything to do with the album, though.

GWYNETH: Aside from your solo work, you are also one third of Seekae, a critically acclaimed Sydney-based electronic group. Are there any major life lessons you’ve learned from as a group?

CAMERON: Just to stay in control of what you do and not rest on the fact that people out there are saying they want to help you with your music. It doesn’t matter if you sign a contract with a small label or a big label, you just gotta make sure that they’re the right people to work with. Because when you’re starting out as a musician, a lot of people will tell you they’re going to help you, but I don’t know, they’re kinda collecting little toys, you know? Musicians have become little collective items for these rich kids who say they have labels. It’s kind of weird. But the lesson I learned from that was to maintain control over your work and workload and if you want it to be more, go and get some work. Don’t sit around because someone says they’re gonna help you.

GWYNETH: Do you prefer being in the studio or being on stage?


CAMERON: They’re just so different. I don’t know, I like them both. Right now I like being on stage because we’re touring but in the studio it’s also electric.

MOLLOY: It’s like playing basketball on the court by yourself or being on the team--it’s all good.

GWYNETH: What is most exciting and what is most difficult about being on tour?

CAMERON: The most exciting thing is that sense of work of getting paid cash off the show and getting those rewards that you think and wonder if they’re still out there...You don’t find them but they’re there. The most challenging part?

MOLLOY: That’s the easiest part to answer. [laughs] Don’t worry kids, get out there and do it! But keep it positive, you know?

CAMERON: It’s work so it is what you make of it. Sticking to a schedule can be a little bit difficult but make sure you brush your teeth, have clean socks ready in the morning, and...

MOLLOY: Pack your bags the night before.

GWYNETH: And do you have any plans once the tour is over?

MOLLOY: This is a never-ending tour as far as we can tell.

CAMERON: Yeah we’ve been gone for three years.

GWYNETH: You’re not taking any time to decompress?

CAMERON: I think we have time here and there but really, we don’t see this as some special vacation. This is work and if you work you get a three-week break per year.

MOLLOY: It’d be nice to see family on Christmas.

CAMERON: Yeah. We got more music to record and write. I don’t know, you gotta think about this as something we’re doing that is 24/7.

MOLLOY: We’re not doing this because we’re seeking escape from the 9-5, you know?

CAMERON: Yeah, this is our job now. 


Alex Cameron's debut album Jumping The Shark will be out on August 19 via Secretly Canadian - preorder it here. He will also be touring with Angel Olsen in the United States this fall - see tour dates here. Interview and photographs by Jessica Gwyneth. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Activating The Vehicle Of Ascension: An Interview Of Filmmaker and Artist Floria Sigismondi

text by Oliver Kupper

Floria Sigismondi’s work, like her music videos for Marilyn Manson, David Bowie or Leonard Cohen, is a perfect amalgamation of her unique upbringing. Spending her early years in the coastal town of Pescara, Italy and her formative years in the rough steel manufacturing town of Hamilton, Ontario – with opera singers for parents – Sigismondi has developed a unique aesthetic that blends classicism with a certain darkness that harkens 1970s Giallo films and the nightmarish tableau vivants of Joel Peter Witkin. As a music video director, Sigismondi brings a distinctive world to life with an unsettling and jarring pastiche of imagery that flickers as if each scene was shot with a camera perched on the wing of a hummingbird. Lately, though, her work has taken a turn for the meditative and ethereal, like her most recent music video for Rihanna’s track Sledgehammer – made for the newest Star Trek film. The music video, set in an otherworldly atmosphere, was the first ever made for IMAX. Sigismondi is also pushing further into the world of feature length filmmaking, which is a promising venture considering the success of her 2010 debut – a biopic about The Runaways starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning.  Currently, she is in the casting phase for the adaptation of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq’s comic series "Bouncer" – about an armed gunslinger and saloon bouncer seeking revenge in the vice infested Wild West. We got a chance to catch up with Sigismondi at the Chateau Marmont to chat about her upbringing, her work creating some of the most iconic music videos of the last two decades and her venture into feature length films. 

OLIVER KUPPER: Both of your parents are opera singers and music is a big part of your life. Was that your earliest introduction to music?

FLORIA SIGISMONDI: It was. I grew up on Tosca and Caruso and Maria Callas. That kind of music enters you. It’s not really just about what they’re saying, but it pulls on your heartstrings. And I fell in love with it by just hearing violin and piano and then kind of got into different kinds of music. But my parents...I always came across some strife because it was just amazing to them that these singers were having careers with this music, while I just thought they were singing the same old song and I wanted to experiment and try new things.

KUPPER: So were they very supportive when you started digging up things and discovered art?

SIGISMONDI: Yeah. My dad was a big Italian film buff and if they saw me scribble on a piece of paper they’d say it was art and that I was going to become an artist. I realized that they were the black sheep of their families and I guess that’s why they gravitated toward each other.

OLIVER KUPPER: So you knew you were an artist at an early age or that art was somehow part of your identity?

SIGISMONDI: I always did.

KUPPER: And you were mainly drawing?

SIGISMONDI: Yeah. Seeing just the tools like a little paintbrush or a professional sketching pencil got me really excited. It was this feeling almost like butterflies fluttering inside your body, and I just knew that it was what made me happy--that spirit. I think because my first language was Italian and I was kind of learning English in school, I really gravitated toward that as my means of communication. I was by myself and wanted to discover who I was by making art.

KUPPER: What was the culture like when you were growing up?

SIGISMONDI: It was rough. I lived in Hamilton, which is outside of Toronto. I was two when we immigrated [from Italy]. There were more steel factories per capita than I think in all of North America. It was a really tough town so there’d be fights at every party, every weekend. If you stared at somebody for more than 2.5 seconds they’d ask what’s your problem ­– it was that kind of thing, even as a young girl. So it was very tough. But then I’d go home and it’d be like little Italy. We’d be making pasta and singing, my mother would be sewing at two o’clock in the morning making costumes, and I’d be watching Westerns with my dad. [laughs] So it was two completely different worlds.

KUPPER: So, Hamilton was very tough.  

SIGISMONDI: Yeah it’s a very special place. I used to ride motorcycles and I remember I had a tiny baby Triumph. Loved my little English bike! It would always break down, though, so I was tired of it and was going to get a Harley – of course it had to be one of the biggest Harleys you could get, but I bought it off of a guy who was not happy he was selling it to a woman.

KUPPER: And photography is something that you really gravitated toward and you went into the direction of fashion photography, right? 


SIGISMONDI: I actually did music and fashion. The thing was, I was at school and did my four years. It was the last year and I had to pick an elective and I kind of thought, ‘okay I’ll try this.’ And I remember this roll of film just turned out blank because I didn’t even know how to expose it. But there was one picture that turned out kind of like a painting. I remember it being over exposed and having super bright colors. I was just thinking, ‘what the fuck did I do’? [laughs] So I think I stumbled into photography in a more impressionistic way where I didn’t see it as documenting things but more for asking ‘how can I use this a tool?’

KUPPER: And your approach to start making music videos…was that something that you knew you wanted to do or you thought about doing then?

SIGISMONDI: Well, it’s funny, I didn’t know that, but I read an interview when I was just taking photographs, and I was saying that I wanted to make film back then. So I guess there was something attractive to it. I grew up watching Fellini films, Pasolini, the Italian Spaghetti Westerns. And I remember watching as a kid and always asking things like, “how did they get that?” I’d always imagine what was behind the scene of getting that shot. I guess I knew sort of subconsciously about the creation of it as an art form. And when I do finish work I rarely look at it. So I think for me it’s more about the process, what you learn as you’re watching things.

KUPPER: In terms of inspirations, people throw around Joel-Peter Witkin or other artists. How would you describe your aesthetic? Because it is really unique to you…

SIGISMONDI: Obviously I gravitated to likeminded people who view the world in the same way as I do, seeing beauty in maybe the ugly or beauty in unexpected places. Also, the combination of two extremes (like in the way that I grew up with the steel-factory-rough-thing mashed together with the high art), so I kind of gravitated toward artists like that. But it’s been a long time since I’ve actually referenced anybody. For me it was more of like, ‘Wow, that person is doing what they love to do, no matter how crazy it is.’

KUPPER: And what was the connection with Brion Gysin, who made the Dream Machine?

SIGISMONDI: Oh yeah! He had this Dream Machine, that’s right. I did an interview for the documentary. I think there may have been a prior connection. He was in Toronto so maybe he’s Canadian.

KUPPER: He inspired a lot of people not only when he and William Burrough’s first developed it, but there’s weird connections between it and Kurt Cobain and stuff like that. So I was curious if there was some kind of connection between that and not just the aesthetic of your work, but also the idea of these sort of dreamlike images.

SIGISMONDI: Let’s just put it out on the table that dreams are more fun. That dimension is more fun than ours where we have to brush our teeth, this disease, that disease. There’s a lot of things we have to do that won’t allow us to completely go and daydream into different worlds. So for me it’s kind of what most excites me about life. And then you can extract that and make it into something physical to share with people.

KUPPER: Does any of your work come directly from dreams that you’ve had?

SIGISMONDI: Yeah, especially when I see them in detail. Sometimes they’re more vague and sometimes I can see the hairs almost coming out of the skin.

KUPPER: When you come up with a concept for a music video like the iconic one you made for [Marilyn] Manson, does the idea come to you right away? Or do you have to listen to the music?

SIGISMONDI: I have to listen to the music, because music to me sort of puts me in a trance. I have to listen to it so much that it actually has no form and then images starts to come up. So it’s kind of there and I’m not paying much attention to it, and I think that that’s when you kind of slip through the gap of this ‘other.’ And that’s what I used to do, I used to do a lot more sleep deprivation or listen to it when I was really tired at night, when you’re not worried about the stress of the day. It was more about a meditative or pre-meditative state whereas now things come to me while I'm walking or talking. I don’t have to put myself in those places.



KUPPER: Do you write things down or do you keep them in something like a memory bank?

SIGISMONDI: Scared of that, but yeah. I do write them down and I have so many notebooks scattered all over the house that it’s crazy for me to find anything. [laughs] I’ve actually had to go through them and put stickies on them, because one project can be in ten different notebooks. So it kind of drives me crazy and I don’t know how to organize myself. Because when you have that inspiration you have to write it down.

KUPPER: What do you notice is the biggest difference in the music videos made now versus twenty years ago?

SIGISMONDI: I don’t watch them.

KUPPER: So did they become less interesting to even engage with at all?

SIGISMONDI: I think our culture was a lot simpler back then, you know what I mean? We didn’t have all this other stuff to analyze. So you did it because you were on the fringe, or there was a real kind of just bubbling into the mainstream, but you still felt it was yours to be a part of, you know? Whereas at least for me, now you really have to search. And so you have to be particular with your time and ask, ‘Do I want to create?’ or ‘Do I want to search?’ And I don’t watch television and I haven’t had one for many years. I finally got one just to watch Netflix but I don’t watch regular television.

KUPPER: There is an art form to making music videos, it’s filmmaking. In a condensed form.

SIGISMONDI: Yeah, for me it was always important to introduce something new in every section or in a fluid way. For me, the thing with a song in a music video is that if you put it all in the first minute then you’ve seen it.

KUPPER: And you made a feature. Was it daunting to go into making a feature film? Was it a completely different experience?

SIGISMONDI: It was so daunting because I was told that a film of that size would’ve been seven weeks, and I had like four or something ridiculous. I didn’t know and that even seemed like a long time to me, but you just don’t get through it. You meet your car guy or whatever person once, and can’t think about it even if it seems like the wrong guy for the scene. So that part of it was so different and crazy. I remember when the shoot started, I went ‘Oh my god,’ because the shooting of it was relaxing even though I was moving locations every day, and even if I didn’t get what I needed to get, I couldn’t go back. So I had to move very quickly. It was nuts.

KUPPER: I want to talk about the music video you made for David Bowie, starring Tilda Swinton, which sort of played with that idea of celebrity. How do you feel about those themes regarding celebrity?

SIGISMONDI: It’s not a concept that comes up, but it’s a strange way to live. I don’t think it’s natural to have that much attention and that we’re built for it. It’s a desire that's kind of dreamlike. It’s a dream...it’s a fantasy.

KUPPER: How did you meet Bowie? How did that collaboration come about?

SIGISMONDI: After I did the Marilyn Manson music video, I guess he had seen that and wanted to meet me. I remember for our first meeting he kept me waiting for an hour. But he was so amazing and we ended up spending five hours talking about art, so it was so great. I remember he had some ideas that he wanted to do. Since they were coming from him I took them very seriously but didn’t know what to do with them. And then I remember getting this amazing message on my answering machine where he just went like, do your own thing or create your own thing. He was giving me permission to be the artist that I was or that he respected. So we met in an artist-to-artist way.

KUPPER: Which is a great way to connect.

 SIGISMONDI: He was just really supportive in the artistic process and taught me that this is all we have. I remember the record company not liking some cuts of Little Wonder and I told him, “Oh my god, they don’t like this. I don’t know what to do,” and he just laughed, saying, “You don’t listen to them!” Because if he had, he’d be manufactured art. So then it became so exciting for me to think that all I had to do was come up with weird images and I could actually live in the world and have fun like that.

KUPPER: Are there any artists that you want to work with in any sphere of music videos?

SIGISMONDI: There are three new artists that I was thinking were so interesting. My mind right now is going more to features. I’m working on a movie with Alejandro Jodorowsky, which I know you read about that.

KUPPER: Yeah, I did. That’s so exciting!

SIGISMONDI: He wrote it and it’s based on his comic book series. It’s got all the elements but it’s a linear story that follows the life of this little boy who watches his parents get brutally murdered and he goes out to search for revenge and finds out about his family and that everything is interconnected. So it’s very Shakespearean in scope.

KUPPER: What stage is that in right now?

SIGISMONDI: Casting.

KUPPER: And your current video that’s out now with Rihanna. How did that come about?

SIGISMONDI: Well we were looking for something to do and this one was very special because IMAX was involved and the film Star Trek was involved. So when Rihanna and her team approached me it was really intriguing to create this other world. It was very different to anything that I think she’d done before. But also what was so great about it too was that it’s a stand alone piece, it wasn’t about using footage from the film, so I was able to just take all the elements that I wanted and give her the power and create her as a new character in a way. So I created a mystical character living on this planet, just conjuring up all these powers and she’s able to move the elements like rocks and sand and then transform herself into the universe. So it has this transcendent theme of how I think that people have such a big power that they don’t use.

KUPPER: And you premiered it in IMAX right? It’s a much different experience than watching it online.  

SIGISMONDI: Yes it is. Quite immersive and if you actually watch it in the IMAX theatre, the sound is pretty incredible too. They took me through the regular sound, the old IMAX sound, and this new IMAX sound, and you’d think you could barely hear a difference, but it’s incredible how you could actually hear the sound going right through your clothing to inside your body. So we had to remix the song to the IMAX sound and sound effects.

KUPPER: Amazing. And right now you’re working on something for the show in Toronto?

SIGISMONDI: That is part of a show called Oblivion which has three artists. I got the square with Director X and he’s done titles like the Death of the Sun and mine’s about activating and transcendence - it’s a little bit witchy. It’s all about activating your vehicle of ascension.


You can explore more of Floria Sigismondi's work on her website. Interview, text and photographs by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Praying Mantis Disco Queen: An Interview With Artist Joyce Pensato

Walking into Joyce Pensato's vast studio in Bushwick, I’m first greeted by Elizabeth Ferry, an artist and Pensato's studio assistant, as well as Charlie, an eerie looking, sweet dog whose right eye is blind by cataracts. Pensato herself is short, but tall in personality. Her shoes feel more stylish, remnants perhaps of days in Paris, but still they’re perfectly covered in her signature paint drippings. As we sit, Ferry is busily packing up the space because they leave the next day for the closing of Pensato’s recent show, “The Fizz,” which has been on display at Grice Bench Gallery in Los Angeles. After this, they come back briefly to prepare and work for upcoming exhibitions in Chicago, and then Austria.

At the end of the following interview, we take some photos. Pensato grabs her pink wig and white shades and walks over to a big painting featuring a frenetically deconstructed Batman character. She becomes something reminiscent of a praying mantis disco queen. Once she feels satisfied, she hands over the disguise to me and I give her my camera. Seems only fair she gets to photograph me too. Before moving onto another look, Ferry joins in and we go through the sunglasses, and the props.

In the following interview, I talk to Pensato about her current freedom of expression within the art world, the correlation between the understanding of oneself and cultivating work over time, and her new venture in photography.

ANNIE FRAME: I noticed your studio isn’t that messy. In fact, it’s quite clean at the moment.

JOYCE PENSATO: We just moved in. This is new - it will get messy.  

FRAME: Wow this is heavy.  [I reach for my phone but have to move her recent splurge – a giant lock shaped chain necklace by Chanel].

PENSATO: It’s real. I got paint all over it, but I’m too lazy to clean it.

FRAME: You mentioned in a previous interview that you were experimenting with photography and found imagery.  

[Joyce takes out her camera to show a new, unseen series of photographs where she and Ferry, along with two other actors are dressed as stereotypical Hollywood characters; big sunglasses, jewelry, sipping bubbles under the palm trees looking incredibly performative, and intentionally campy].

PENSATO: Did it? I’m not sure. But we did have a great time in LA taking these photographs. I was playing around. We took these at the pool. Look at Elizabeth, doesn’t she look great! A real Patsy [Cline]. This guy! He was a George Clooney impersonator and we flew him in just to do this. He doesn’t look like him here - but in the others he really does.

FRAME: I like the more weird things about LA.

PENSATO: Me too. I want to do this shoot, but in New York. Dress everyone up, I’ll close this bar down for the day, and photograph the inside.




FRAME: Yes! Do it. I bartend part time when I’m not doing this, and I have crazy teeth. Maybe I can be your bartender in the background.

PENSATO: You do have the teeth - we could have you in something.

FRAME:  Would you ever live in LA?

PENSATO: No. I would visit for some time for work, but this is where I’ve always been.

FRAME: What kind of music do you like listening to in the studio?

PENSATO: Elizabeth got me into the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I like them, but mostly I need things that are upbeat. Or I listen to talk radio.

FRAME: What was it like being a woman in the art world then versus now?

PENSATO: [laughs] To be honest, I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy doing my thing and working to notice. It’s great that women are finally getting noticed, but I was here, apart from it.

FRAME: I noticed you had a lot more color in your show, Castaway, at Petzel Gallery, and I was curious if you were becoming lighter?

PENSATO: I always start with some color. Then the color gets covered, and I go over it with varnish. It’s really the base.

FRAME: You mentioned coming to terms with feeling comfortable with yourself, and how it took you a while to stop resisting.

PENSATO: It took me awhile to get there.

FRAME: I ask because I’m really struggling with that now. I feel as if I’m too old fashioned because I work with film, or I don’t think I know what’s popular, or I’m changing my mind all the time.

PENSATO: With changing your work?

FRAME: Yeah I’m starting to incorporate text and drawings now. Maybe I’m just curious what kind of advice you would give if you were in my shoes? 

PENSATO:  You have to be yourself. And some people they have it early on. They just know. But I’m not like that.

FRAME: Me neither.

PENSATO: But everyone is different. It takes time and you figure it out eventually. You can’t be what you think you should be.

FRAME: Yeah.  

PENSATO: But it gets easier with age. You start not giving a shit and you learn to stop listening to the voices in your head - because that's what stops you. It’s all here. [Pensato places her hand to her heart] It’s all there. You have it all here.

FRAME: I think it will take me some time too.   

PENSATO: And therapy. Therapy helps.

FRAME: My last question since I know you have to get back to packing is, do you work better under pressure with a bunch of deadlines?

PENSATO: With some artists, their deadline starts right when the canvas comes off the truck. I like deadlines, and keeping busy. I don’t always know what or how - but I get there eventually.


Text, interview and photographs by Annie Frame. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Danny Sangra On Working With Metallica For Brioni’s Enlivening New Campaign

Metallica is a quintessential American band. However, there is nothing American about Brioni (an Italian menswear brand founded in Rome in 1945) and there is nothing American about its new creative director Justin O’Shea (a former womenswear buyer who hails from Toowoomba, Australia). So, its interesting and very bold that O’Shea would ask the heavy metal band if they would be the new face of Brioni, a stale brand that he hopes to reinvigorate with a bit of American cool and muscle car masculinity, mixed with Brioni’s lineage of tailored Italian gentlemanliness.  Today – Independence Day – also happens to be the same day that O’Shea is showing the first collection under his direction during Paris Couture Week. Brioni has also released the first of a series of short films directed by a London-based filmmaker Danny Sangra. Most of the films star O’Shea as a caricature of himself, which Sangra has written to perfection. The character could be described as exigent, obtuse, out of touch, and self obsessed – everything that you may expect from someone so entrenched in the fashion world. In Brioni’s standout film – starring James, Lars, Kirk and Robert – O’Shea plays a ditz who has no idea who Metallic is. It’s silly and ridiculous, but fun and Sangra is too talented of a filmmaker to not pull it off. We got a chance to ask Sangra about the new Brioni campaign, collaborating with the brand’s new creative director and what the hell it was like to work with Metallica.

AUTRE: So how did this collaboration come about and what was your first reaction when you were told that you'd be working with Metallica? 

DANNY SANGRA: Actually, Justin asked me last minute. I was supposed to be shooting a Balenciaga project and then filming his other film project for Brioni the day after that in Europe. I wanted to do the Metallica job but felt it would be too crazy to try and fit in a three day shoot in San Francisco two days before I was due to shoot seven films in three days.

However I knew the ideas Justin had for the film were funny and I really wanted to write the script. It would have killed me not to be able to do it as we have made 5 films together already. But as luck should have it, my projects all got moved around. 

After I sent the script to Justin, I kept asking him ‘I don’t know man, do you really think they will do this?’

AUTRE: It looks like you've collaborated with Justin when he was a buyer for MyTheresa - how did you two first meet?

SANGRA: We met when Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week asked me to write a film with him as the main character. I wanted to meet him before I wrote a script but he’s always traveling and I’m hardly in one place all the time. Luckily I flew into London when he was staying at the Edition. We had a few drinks and once I got home I wrote a script immediately. 

AUTRE: What were your first impressions of him? 

SANGRA: I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he was actually really easy going. I thought there might be a wall at first, many people are worried that you will make them look bad. However, he straightaway said that he wanted to make fun of himself. That film turned out pretty successful.

On set I was really impressed at how well he remembers scripts. I wrote a pretty heavy amount of dialogue for him and he turned up with it memorized. I don’t remember him making a mistake - and there was a lot more dialogue than what’s in the final edit of that film.

AUTRE: Where did the concept of the short film with Metallica come about? 

SANGRA: Justin called me about shooting Metallica and that he wanted to do a ‘behind the scenes’ but make it funny. He wanted to be the guy that had no idea who Metallica are. He had a bunch of ideas about how he could interact with them. Then I wrote a script that could work as a series of films.

AUTRE: Was much of it improvised?

SANGRA: I’ve been writing Justin as a certain character lately. It’s not really him, I think it’s a hyper version of what many people think he might be like (It’s also a character he likes to play up to). We’ve spoken enough that it’s easy for him now to play around with his script. For Metallica, we only had a few takes to get it right, so there wasn’t much room for major improvising on set. We mainly came up with ideas before the shoot. I was also working out each band member on the day – trying to work them out before asking them to do things.



AUTRE: What were your initial thoughts about Brioni before making the film, because the brand is a little bit old fashioned?

SANGRA: To be honest, I didn’t know too much about them and what I did know about them, didn’t make me think we could make films like this for them. I thought I’d have to make something more serious. Justin and I developed two film projects once he became creative director, both of which are far from old fashioned. There was a moment when we were filming the second project in the Brioni head office and I couldn’t believe we were allowed to do it with no restrictions. Many of the brands that people believe are the coolest brands don’t have that much freedom. For me it’s about a brand that is open to new ways of doing things. Some things work and some don’t but it’s being open to new ideas is what counts for me.

AUTRE: What do you think about these major fashion labels bringing on maverick designers or anti-designers, do you think that it allows more room for filmmakers to have budgets to work on bigger projects?

SANGRA: It allows filmmakers to develop new ideas for brands. Ideas that might have been typically binned with previous designers. I’m not saying a new maverick designer makes it better than the previous, it just makes it new. Fashion always demands ‘new’. I’m not sure about the budgets side of things. They are getting bigger in some respects, but I think it mostly allows for filmmakers and creative people who aren’t as established, to get the jobs they couldn’t before. This is down to the new designers wanting to work with people they know and lesser-known creatives that are developing new things.  If anything, maverick designers and anti-designers allow for risk. The creative progress devours risk.

AUTRE: What was it like working with Metallica, what was the atmosphere like on set?

SANGRA: They’re actually pretty relaxed, I think by now they are pretty used to it all. The set was relaxed because my DP and my wife (who is often my producer) were working with me. We’ve all worked and hung out with Justin and Zack before (Zackery Michael - the campaign photographer) when we shot the Carolina Herrera film in LA.  I also used the sound guy who worked on the Some Kind of Monster documentary.

AUTRE: Was there anyone in the band that you got along with more? 

SANGRA: Not really, I had about an equal amount of time with each one. However I spent more time with Robert because I ended up putting him in more scenes. I started putting him in the background of James’s scene but I cut out the bit where you catch him trying to head bang side ways in the mirror. Plus I gave Robert the punchline scene of the film.

They did have a guy with them that thought Justin was serious. He kept telling the band ‘I don’t know if you’re doing what he needs’. None of the band told him that it wasn’t serious. The guy left the shoot thinking it was real.

AUTRE: What's on the horizon for you, Justin and Brioni?

SANGRA: I have another series of films I made with Justin. We shot some in Paris and some in Rome, at the Brioni head office. I think they have just come out today for his 4th of July show.

AUTRE: We featured one of your earlier projects, a more personal film, do you feel more of a responsibility when you are working with a big fashion brand? 

SANGRA: I guess I feel more responsibility to anyone that’s paying me to make something. Big fashion brand or small label just starting out. They are expecting something for their investment. When I make things for myself, I don’t expect much. I just have an idea and make it. It’s the time I get to experiment. I’m lucky that the majority of my films for brands allow me to make what I want. Most of the scripts I write, you can tell are mine. You know when it’s not really my film.

AUTRE: Anything else that you have on the horizon? 

SANGRA: I’m shooting another film with MyTheresa and Balenciaga, which I’m pretty excited about and I have just shot a series of shorts for The Standard Hotels. I’ve also just got word that people will be able to see my feature film, Goldbricks In Bloom, in October. There’s some other things but as usual I’m not allowed to say!


See the Brioni "Behind The Scenes" film below, starring Metallica, directed by Danny Sangra. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photos provided by Danny Sangra. Follow Autre on instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE